By Shane Hoffman and Sarah Schaff
The American Solidarity Party, as part of its commitment to a comprehensive pro-life agenda, calls for “laws that facilitate authentic human freedom and ensure that all people have access to everything they need to thrive.” Currently, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is part of our social safety net. SNAP, popularly known as food stamps, is a key element in assisting the most needy in our society to get nutritious food into their homes when they might not otherwise have the means to do so. The elderly, the disabled, people who have had a family emergency and are temporarily unable to work, and those who have suffered job loss all benefit from this program.
What kind of reach does SNAP have? Last year, 40 million low-income Americans received SNAP benefits—that is 12% of the country’s population. Eligibility for this program has always been determined by income, using the federal poverty guidelines. Those rules allow for families earning up to 130% of the federal poverty guidelines to apply. For a family of four, that means an annual income of $33,480 or less. The goal of SNAP is to enable families to stretch their food dollars and to ensure that local grocery stores and farmer’s markets are able to sell their wares and their surplus. This program was meant to be a win-win across the country: for farmers, for small business owners, for grocery stores, and for those in need.
The current SNAP guidelines allow families to choose nutritious foods to supplement their existing food budget. This program does not pay for the purchase of alcohol or tobacco, nor does it subsidize the purchase of non-edible items, such as pet food or paper towels. It is a program meant to help families obtain wholesome, nutritious foods when they simply can’t afford it, and addresses the types of hunger and poverty that were witnessed in our country as recently as the 1980s. The proposed changes announced this year will drastically reduce eligibility across the board, meaning that millions of families stand to lose their SNAP benefits in a few months. While the benefits may disappear, hunger doesn’t. Although compassion and recognition of the intrinsic value of all human beings would argue against the proposed cuts, there are also more practical reasons to oppose these changes.
The consequences of hunger and food insecurity are lifelong. In schools, it is more difficult for hungry children to learn and succeed. Children who are food-insecure often display behavioral issues, which impede their progress in the classroom. Research has shown that food-insecure households have higher rates of hospitalization. Lower literacy rates and behavioral issues are correlated with higher levels of incarceration later in life, so it is easy to see how food insecurity contributes to problems for an entire community. Food insecurity early in life has also been shown to be an indicator for drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and Type 2 diabetes. By doing the right thing and spending money now to make sure our friends and neighbors—especially our children—are able to access healthy and nutritious meals, we can save money down the road on prisons, health care, lost productivity, and more.
In practical terms, the proposed cuts would impact the poor in the following ways:
- 1.9 million families (over 3 million people) stand to lose eligibility for SNAP.
- Capping the deduction of utility costs from income that a client may take in order to meet eligibility requirements mean that more people will be forced to choose between eating and heating their homes in the winter.
- States will no longer be able to opt out of the rule that requires eligible households to have no more than $2,250 in cash or savings—unless disabled or over 60, after which the limit is raised to a mere $3,500—which makes it almost impossible to save for an emergency or large purchase.
- States lose the right to extend benefits to families who are working and earn slightly above the poverty guidelines, but have large child-care costs and need assistance.
- Perhaps the greatest shame of all is that an estimated one million children will lose access to free and reduced-price lunches at school, as well as to summer meals provided through the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program—possibly the only meals they get each day.
We must call upon our elected representatives to oppose these changes. As members of the American Solidarity Party, we should recognize that the proposed changes are a breach of the public trust and an abrogation of our solemn duty to protect the neediest among us. We acknowledge the intrinsic human dignity of all people, and thus believe that individuals should not be forced to make choices between heating their homes and feeding their children, between saving for an emergency and putting food on the table.
Beyond our moral obligation to care for our fellow human beings, these benefits are an investment in our economy. The pennies we spend today providing assistance to those in need come back to us in measurable outcomes down the road. As such, members of the American Solidarity Party must stand firmly against the proposed SNAP rule changes. I urge you to contact your federal representatives before the extended period of comment on this change ends on November 1, 2019.
To formally comment on the proposed changes to SNAP, follow this link: