Food insecurity is a term that barely begins to describe what 14.5 percent of American households experience — up from 11 percent before the recession — yet more than 50 million elders, children, and parents live with empty cupboards and hunger pangs amongst overflowing grocery stores.
Fortunately, some smart politicians from both parties long ago recognized the critical link between food security and poverty alleviation, and created the food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Food stamps are the first line of defense against hunger in America and 20 million children—nearly one in three get this modest help. In 2011, SNAP lifted 4.7 million people out of poverty while being one of the most efficient federal programs, with a 1 percent rate of misuse. Investments in SNAP are also a very effective economic stimulator for local businesses, farmers and grocers; the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds that each dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.79 in economic activity.
Despite its success, House of Representatives leaders are proposing to cut SNAP by $40 billion over 10 years. These cuts would force 4 million to 6 million people off SNAP, deny free school meals to 210,000 children, and reduce benefits for another 1.7 million Americans.
Congress should be working to strengthen SNAP, not radically cut it. If you’ve got enough to eat, count your blessings and call Congress.