As the House begins drafting a multi-year farm bill, it is worth taking a moment to dispel the myths that make the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly food stamps, an easy target for cuts. Who are these people, you ask? Are they the same people my neighbor swears drive luxury cars to the grocery store on their way back from getting their nails done? Are they able-bodied adults who would rather live off the system than work? Not quite, though this paints a convenient picture for those who want to make cuts to the program and not lose sleep over it.
Of the just over 10% of CT residents who receive SNAP benefits, only slightly more than 6% of them were able-bodied adults living in non-elderly, non-disabled, childless households. I don’t have the exact number of that sub-set who own a BMW or have had a recent manicure, but I can tell you they are not the ones you need to worry about. Let us instead focus our efforts on worrying about those who want to feed their families and can’t, no matter how hard they try.
My morning route from home in suburbia to work brings me past a local food pantry and reminds me every Thursday, when they open and people spill out their doors with grocery bags of food they hope will last them the week, why the work I’m driving to is important. We should all remind ourselves, and more often than just Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m., that as someone on Capitol hill draws a red line through these benefits, people are struggling to make do with what is already too little.
Last Thursday, as I was stopped at the stop sign by that food pantry, I saw two women looking through the bags of food they had come away with, and one handed the other a box of pasta from her bag. I could not read her lips, but imagine she was giving up something she needed to someone who may have needed it even more. If Members of Congress could find some way to give up the things they want for the things the country needs, maybe we would all be better off.
Stay tuned to see if this version will bring us back to last year, when leaders drafted a five-year plan for the super-committee that wasn’t, with $23 billion in spending cuts, or if the case can be made to cut from elsewhere and continue providing this necessary benefit to those who need it most.