My View: Food-stamp recipients are not freeloaders
July 9, 2013
Shame on the conservative members of the House of Representatives for trying to insert into a House farm bill a very cruel provision, to cut the food stamp program by nearly 30 percent. Defeat means the cuts will not occur for now. Democrats and even some Republicans could not support the bill. It died and rightly so.
All of these cuts would have come when more than 25 percent of working families in Colorado do not have enough food to meet their basic needs, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey 2011.
The House bill would have cut spending in farm and nutrition programs by nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years nationwide. $20.5 billion of that total would have come from cuts to the $75 billion food stamp program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP.
Politifact, a respected fact-checker of the Tampa Bay Times, examined Democrats' claims cuts in the House farm bill would leave 2 million people without food stamps and remove 210,000 children from the school breakfast and lunch program. The fact checker concluded that "Ultimately, both numbers go back to the Congressional Budget Office, which is generally seen as impartial. … We rate the statement Mostly True"
In the debate over the farm bill spanning the past two years, members of the House who wanted the kill SNAP dusted off the same time-worn complaint used to object to food stamps in years past, that welfare queens abused the program. Times have changed and those old views are fossils.
"So make these welfare slackers get a job," a conservative friend of mine grouched. "Get yourself current," I retorted. Families receiving food stamps now hold jobs three time more than those who rely solely on welfare benefits, according to a July 2010 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That is a significant reversal from 1989 when only 20 percent of food stamp recipients held jobs.
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Most recipients who can work are working, but their income is so low, they cannot afford enough food and their rent, too. Cigarettes and alcohol have long been ineligible for food stamp purchases.
So who gets food stamps now? In 2013 most are kids and elderly. Per the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the programs, three-quarters of food stamp recipients are families with children. Nearly half (47 percent) were under age 18 and another 8 percent were age 60 or older. Even in the recession, the numbers of food stamp recipients have not increased.
In the 2012 presidential campaign, some members of the GOP called for even cutting nutrition and school lunch programs and some of those funds were part of the farm bill cuts. Who would they hurt? Of the nutrition programs for the poor (8.7 million recipients), 4.3 million are women with children, 2.2 million are with infants. National school lunch programs: 30.5 million kids benefit, per the Department of Agriculture.
What is the solution other than federal government programs for those who are concerned? Food banks provided by charitable and church organizations make up some of the difference often on the local level, serving even those who also receive food stamps. Think what the size the need would be if food stamp programs were cut by 30 percent.
Our own Grand County Mountain Family Center is handing out lunches to 50 kids in Fraser (population 1,224 ) who are home for the summer and who had received subsidized lunches and breakfasts served to them during the school year. The center will be collecting non-perishable canned food items to stock their food bank shelves. Such is the situation of hunger in our own county.. (www.mountainfamilycenter.org)
It is time for those who care to step up to the plate both in politics and in works of charity.