After passing a SNAP-less Farm Bill last month, the House of Representatives kicked reauthorizing funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program down the road. Until now.
House Republicans appear poised to resume debate over the former food stamps program when they return from their August recess, and their plan is to cut SNAP funding by an incredible $40 billion. If approved, the cuts, which would occur over 10 years, would be twice the amount included in the Farm Bill that failed to pass the House in June and an astonishing 10 times the amount approved by the Senate, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) said last week.
House Democrats oppose the deep cuts to the program, which has ballooned since the start of the economic downturn to more than 47 million recipients—one in seven Americans. A separate amendment, sponsored by Steve Southerland (R-FL), would also require SNAP recipients to find work or risk losing their benefit. Hunger advocacy groups vow to fight the cuts and changes to the program, which they say will cut as many as 10 million Americans from the program and overwhelm food banks that are already stretched thin.
In a statement, Rev. David Beckmann, president of anti-hunger group Bread for the World, expressed outrage at the depth of the proposed cuts.
“We know firsthand the suffering and crises that poor families face every day, even in a recovering economy,” he said. “This cut would substantially increase the suffering of 47 million Americans who depend on SNAP to keep hunger at bay.”
For hungry Americans, the cuts could not come at a worse time. Mint Press News reported that real wages fell across the board by 2.8 percent between 2009 and 2012 as global food prices continue to rise. As a result, the value of SNAP benefits decreased by seven percent during that time, according to a recent report by the USDA. And as we reported in June, cutting SNAP would disproportionately affect children who depend on the benefit for vital nutrition in their first years of life.
“I feel like a doctor who’s already coping with an epidemic, the medicine is food, and the public response is to decrease the availability and dosage of the medicine,” Dr. Deborah A. Frank, who directs the Boston-based Grow Clinic and also serves as a principal researcher for Children’s HealthWatch, told TakePart in June. “SNAP is a child health program. It’s long-term bang for the buck for our future workforce.”
Republicans point to the United States’ weakened economy and a SNAP program, costing $78 billion per year, that we can barely afford. But many others say that what we really cannot afford to do is stand idly by while millions of our neighbors worry about where their next meal is coming from.