SNAP benefits in jeopardy for more than 20 million children


by Colleen Flaherty

Edwin Wensman is a retired English teacher in White Bear Lake, Minn. where child hunger is very real.

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“I currently deliver food packages every Thursday to many of our local elementary children who are in need of food to get them through the weekends when they can’t rely on breakfasts and lunches provided by the local school district,” said Wensman.

Even in what Wensman says is a “well-to-do” suburb of St. Paul, he personally delivered 70 packages to one elementary school for just one week. Wensman’s story is no anomaly; a majority of students in the South (53 percent) and, for the first time, the West (50 percent) live in poverty, and now, access to food for children in low-income families may be compromised again.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps, were cut for more than 47 million lower-income people last week. According to the USDA, the cuts will leave people on food stamps an average of $1.40 to spend on each meal.

“This is not the America I fortunately grew up and thrived in,” said Wensman.

Currently, more than 1 in 4 children in the U.S. live in a home that receives food stamps. Eighty-seven percent of SNAP recipients live in households with children, seniors or people with disabilities. Between 2008 and 2012, 1 in 5 U.S. households with children sometimes did not have enough money to buy food.

Now, Congress is renegotiating the farm bill that funds SNAP, and the program could face further draconian cuts.

The House of Representatives wants to cut up to an additional $40 billion over ten years from the food stamp program and eliminate eligibility for school meals for families, potentially cutting more than 200,000 children from the school meals program.

New York educator Ronald Meltzer is worried about what these deep cuts mean, and not just for low-income families.

“So many of the the disabled students I work with live in families getting SNAP,” said Meltzer. “I have no idea what these families are going to do.”

Access to proper nutrition is key for a student’s performance, according to the Nutrition Cognition Initiative at Tufts University. Continuous low nutritional intake affects factors such as motivation and attentiveness, which can have a negative impact on learning. In addition, undernourished children are typically fatigued and uninterested in their social environments.

More importantly, says Meltzer, Congress needs to provide the most basic safety net for our nation’s most vulnerable.

“[Some Congressmen] talk about making cuts to help today’s children tomorrow. How about helping them now?”

Reader Comments

  1. It is unfortunate that our many programs to combat hunger and poverty have been creating more and more poverty. What were the numbers and percentages at the inception of the Food Stamp program in Feb 1961?

    In 1964 quote “The Department (of Agriculture) estimated that participation in a national FSP would eventually reach 4 million, at a cost of $360 million annually.” In March 1994, participation hit a new high of 28 million. As of August 2011, 45.8 million persons were participating in SNAP.

    It is honorable and right to help people in need of assistance. But pushing more and more money around at the federal level is not solving problems but only creating more!

  2. For reasons that never made sense to me, the middle class decided to “get tough on the poor.” In defiance of all logic, they seem to have bought the idea that poverty is merely a choice. I don’t think middle classers understand how poverty impacts them, their families and the country, nor do I think this generation of the middle class cares. I think the general public needs to be educated about the high cost of unrelieved poverty.

  3. Congress is made up of a bunch of rich men who want to be richer. They do not concern themselves with anyone outside their own circle except for deprivation and degradation they force on the citizens. In general they make me sick! They believe that the churches should take on the job of helping the poor, when it is Congress who is creating the poverty by not doing anything about developing decent jobs and encouraging US manufacturers to take their companies overseas by not taxing them for doing it.

  4. So many of my student come to school hungry and live from school breakfast and lunch. We serve them snack in the afternoon. We notice that the kids are really hungry on Monday morning…..why! Because they don’t have enough food at home…..the poor kids are hungy and this affects everything….How can
    grown men take food out of a child’s mouth. We have also seen many parent who are disabled! Why are
    we denying them all ASSISTANCE?
    Teacher and Grandmother

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