The Common Good

Cutting Food Stamp Program Should Be Unimaginable

Date: September 30, 2013

The bill would prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from advertising SNAP in the media and limit other forms of outreach. The argument is that we don’t need more freeloaders. But the fact is that millions of food-insecure Americans who are eligible for the program, who want a hand up and not a hand out, don’t know about it. They skip meals or eat less. The fact is that 50 percent of Americans are one paycheck away from sitting at that same table.

Under the proposed plan, Indiana would lose $98 million in benefits from November through September of next year. This would affect 925,000 Hoosiers, 14 percent of our state’s population. It should be unimaginable, but it is not.

The increase in SNAP recipients is due to high unemployment, not system abuse. As David Sklar, director of Government Affair of the Jewish Community Relations Council noted, “Wall Street may have recovered but Main Street has not.”

Some believe that feeding the hungry is the job of churches and synagogues, not of government. Many congregations do what they can, through food pantries, feeding programs and financial contributions, but Jim Wallis of Sojourner reminds us that every house of worship would have to raise $50,000 a year to provide enough meals if we lost just $20 billion in SNAP benefits. The capacity does not exist.

Put aside the astronomical numbers for a moment. Just picture the face of a hungry 6-year-old girl refusing to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in order to help feed her family. It should be unimaginable, but it isn’t.