We've been writing about issues in Congress and asking people to let their members of Congress know how they feel. Well, Congress is in recess for the summer now, but before they left town they gave us an even better reason to give them a call.
Congress did not reauthorize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which most people still refer to as “food stamps,” before they left for vacation. This is a vital program that puts food on the table for millions of poor families, mostly providing meals to poor single moms and their kids. It must be reauthorized by the beginning of the fiscal year 2013-14 year, on October 1, or authority for SNAP ends.
SNAP has historically been part of the omnibus farm bill, which protected both farm supports favored by rural members and food stamps favored by members representing urban or rural poorer areas. Year after year farm bills with food stamps have been approved overwhelmingly in Congress, typically without much delay.
But not this year.
There are at least 4 proposals on the table for SNAP, none of them are very good. The U.S. Senate passed a version of the farm bill cutting SNAP by $4.5 billion over 10 years. The House failed to pass a version that cut SNAP by $20.5 billion, and failed to move a more draconian plan cutting SNAP by $40 billion over the decade.
There was also an even more troubling attempt to strip SNAP out of the farm bill and deal with it separately, possibly eliminating the program altogether.
A think tank, The Health Impact Project, released a study documenting cuts to SNAP will decimate the ability of many low-income families to feed themselves and increase the overall rate of poverty. Obviously it will have negative health impacts and could lead to increases in chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. In children, it could increase already high rates of asthma among those in poverty as well as depression.
Cutting $20.5 billion, the probable starting point when the House reconvenes in September, eliminates 5.1 million people currently on SNAP. Literally, it would take food out of the mouths of hungry people, mostly children.
Now is the time to call your members of Congress and tell them to protect our most basic nutrition program for people experiencing homelessness or poverty. You can call members, or find out who represents you, through the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121.