Congress cuts SNAP funding to America’s vulnerable

Special to The Dallas Examiner | 9/26/2013, 3:16 p.m.
Texas households with children suffered extraordinarily high rates of food hardship during the recession, according to a new national report ...
Rahab Kinity waits for assistance at the Catholic Parish Outreach Food Pantry in Raleigh, N.C., Sept. 13. Unable to work due to cancer, she applied weeks ago for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and she is still waiting. Next year, under the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, U.S. citizens like Kinity may not be eligible for the program. Gerry Broome

He pointed to recent studies from Harvard University and Mathematica that conclude our weak economy is responsible for the vast majority of recent program growth. Furthermore, he stated that the assistance provided to families living in poverty helps to improve the lives of these families and strengthen the economy.

“I was on food stamps for about a year and a half a few years back,” admitted a single mother living in Dallas. “There were times I had to choose between feeding my family healthy food and having electricity and water. We didn’t have cable or a phone. Dinner was a pasta because it fed the family cheap, sometimes beans and cornbread, or sandwiches with one slice of bologna or peanut butter. For us, food stamps meant that we weren’t going to bed hungry and having three meals a day in the summer. I wasn’t proud of it at the time, but I’m proud that I was able to use the helping-hand to help myself and my family live a better life.”

Food Hardship in Texas:

27.4 percent

Food Hardship Rates for Households with Children across Texas, 2008-2012:

Austin – 23.2 percent

Dallas/Fort Worth – 22.8 percent

Houston – 25.5 percent

San Antonio – 24 percent

On Sept. 19, the measure to cut funding passed by a vote of 217 to 210.

“I voted against a debilitating bill that affects the millions of low-income American families, because many of our citizens are already living on the edge of poverty, and these cuts would virtually eliminate the assistance they desperately need,” Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson said. “In Dallas County, 450,000 residents are food insecure, 300,000 of which are children.”

The bill contains a number of provisions that ignore the reality that millions of Americans continue to struggle with unemployment at 6.5 percent in Texas. The House bill would also cut school lunches for over 200,000 children and eliminate food assistance for 170,000 veterans. The Republican bill would subsequently eliminate 55,000 jobs in the first year alone, according to Johnson.

“In 2011, SNAP lifted 4.7 million people out of poverty,” Johnson reported. “It’s not just the Black or Hispanic populations who receive SNAP benefits, but it’s the working class, the elderly and the disabled. Cutting this program would be devastating to the millions of Americans who are working hard to provide for their families.”

The program cuts will increase hunger in their districts and around the country. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that in 2014, the bill would end benefits for approximately 3.8 million low-income people. The cuts would impact the most economically vulnerable of our citizens, according to FRAC.

“Now that ultra-conservative interest groups, donors and House members have had their say, it is time for the House and Senate conferees and the administration to work for and produce a Farm Bill that makes sense for struggling Americans,” stated Jim Weill, president of FRAC. “While we are dismayed by this vote, there is still time for our elected leaders to reconnect with their struggling constituents and do the right thing. We call on every member of Congress, the Congressional leadership and the White House to right this terrible wrong when the House and Senate meet to negotiate a final Farm Bill. It is time to stop playing politics with poverty, and to start helping low-income people. They must produce a good Farm Bill that does not cut SNAP and that places us on the path to ending hunger in this country.”

The full food hardship analysis is available at http://www.frac.org.