In this photo taken Saturday, February 6, 2010, a sign announcing the acceptance of electronic Benefit Transfer cards is seen at a farmers market in Roseville, California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Last week I posted about “Congressional Hunger Games”—the games both parties are currently playing with the lives of the one in seven Americans who currently receive food assistance. While House Republicans are clearly the most reckless with their attacks on SNAP (food stamps), most Democrats have also failed to speak out to protect the program, and worse, have helped pave the way for cuts.
Because I feel somewhat at a loss as to how to turn this tide—what we should be doing to ensure that our elected representatives aren’t so cavalier in their disregard for the experiences of so many Americans—I decided to check in with some people who have devoted their lives to fighting hunger and poverty. I asked them for some perspective on where we are, and ideas for what we need to be doing right now as the SNAP debate continues.
Here are some responses from national leaders in the fight against hunger and poverty:
‘Send your legislators an exam’
With one in seven people on SNAP (food stamps) in this country, and 80 percent of SNAP families working, the recent debacle of passing a farm bill without a provision for SNAP shows that House leaders and their cheering squad are completely out of touch with the reality of Americans.
If you or someone you know have received SNAP benefits, please call your senators and representative and tell them how important the program is to you and your family’s health, sanity and sense of peace in the world. Say it loudly, clearly and briefly, and, if your children are whining and crying in the background—that’s fine too—maybe it will remind our legislators that 50 percent of the people receiving SNAP assistance are children.
Also, those who care about this program need to know that it will take about 100 SNAP participants in a single district to counteract the voice of one corporate lobby. Shame them and embarrass them into better action, right decision making and tell them to stop wasting away your tax dollars on subsidies for wealthy agribusiness interests rather than investing in the health and well-being of America’s children.
Finally, send your legislators an exam about the facts of the Farm Bill and SNAP. Ask questions about the economic impact of cutting the program—how much economic activity is created by every $5 in SNAP spending? (Answer: $9). Ask simple, elementary questions about the characteristics of SNAP recipients. Ask questions such as, How many people in your district receive SNAP? How much in SNAP benefits is spent in grocery stores in your district? Score your legislators on the test and publish the results. Remember, they seem to think that passing a Farm Bill with only 20 percent of its content—leaving out 80 percent which includes the nutrition provision—is satisfactory. Remind them that answering only 20 percent of the questions is a failing grade, not a pass.