I read an article on ABC News this morning that really has me fired up. It appears that Food Stamps (officially named Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) are under the microscope again, and probably for good reason. According to this article, the yearly cost of the SNAP program is up $30 billion over the past four years, making the current annual cost $72 billion. That’s a lot of money. A lot. But what if we took all the zeros off those numbers and turned them in to people. One in seven people now use the Food Stamp program.
Let’s take it down further. I have seven people in my household. Statistically one of us uses Food Stamps. There is detailed information on income limits and Food Stamp allotments on this page. Let me just keep things very, very simple and use some round numbers that will reflect my household. (Note: We DO NOT receive Food Stamps, but we have in the past.) Ok, so it looks like we could qualify for $572 each month in supplemental assistance. (The government expects you to spend 30% of your earned income on food, I learned today.) Many of us shop a week at a time, so using very basic numbers, that’s $143 a week to feed our household. Are you up to the challenge? Can you do it?
Remember, there is legislation pending in nine states could ban the purchases of things such as sweetened drinks or potato chips, and there are arguments that all foods high in salt, fat, or sugar should be forbidden. Also keep in mind that my kids sometimes need to feed themselves when I’m not home. So, no lunch meats, no chips, no boxed or canned foods. What about the night that a single mother runs home from work to grab her children before heading out to football practice, a choir concert, or a church activity? She can’t make a quick lunch meat sandwich for her family. Because she’s part of the working poor, she has to eat differently. What about a father that doesn’t have many cooking skills in the kitchen? He’s no longer allowed to buy Hamburger Helper or hot dogs for his kids’ meals.
In the future, birthday cakes will only be for rich kids. Food Stamps can not be used to purchase a cake mix or a can of frosting, and especially not a bakery cake. Heaven forbid that mom stretch her food dollars in order to be able to take cupcakes to school to help her child celebrate. It sounds nice, but you can’t buy that with Food Stamps. Cookies and milk at Christmas time? You guessed it, only for the rich. Donuts on a lazy Saturday morning? Not for the those using Supplemental Food Program money.
Before I forget, will someone please tell Michael Bloomberg that banning the sale of soft drinks larger than 16 ounces will simply result in more plastic in the landfills? Folks will simply purchase smaller bottles in larger quantities. And it won’t take long for them to be affordable, either. Supply and demand and all that jazz, ya know. Of course, I’m sure there will be those that give up their carbonated sodas and opt instead for Kool-Aid, where they simply need to add their own sugar. Or maybe they’ll get Crystal Light. Please don’t point out that artificial sweeteners may be harmful. Surely cancer is better than obesity. [/sarcasm]
September is Hunger Action Month. Feeding America, on their website, offers you a quiz to test your hunger knowledge. I took it. I got 100%, but hunger and food insecurity is a problem I tackle, on a small scale, every week at Living Waters Ministries. I encourage everyone with an opinion on this topic to find a way to turn the statistics into faces. Volunteer. Donate. Maybe you have a friend or neighbor that is having a rough time. Can you invite them for dinner? We’re never going to have a perfect, fair system to help the poor. Someone will always get more, or find a way around the rules. But remember that 46.7 million people use Food Stamps in America. These are mothers, fathers, kids, your friends and neighbors. Treat them with the dignity that we all deserve, and empower them to make choices for their families. Being poor is not a crime. The hungry do not deserve punishment.