Stay “woke” and informed on humanitarian policies and issues affecting your neighborhoods and people all around the world. This week’s word is on: FOOD SECURITY. Want to learn more about the importance of advocacy on issues like these? Visit irusa.org/advocacy
The Trump Administration proposed its 2019 budget in February, and one of the areas eyed for a relatively substantial cut is the Department of Agriculture.
The USDA is a relatively quiet department; however, it administers some crucial programs that impact virtually everyone, with the impact usually felt immediately. One of its major programs is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. SNAP currently supports 46 million people, or one in seven Americans.
The budget calls for a 30 percent cut to SNAP over a 10-year period. In 2017, the federal government spent $70 billion on SNAP, which is less than 2 percent of the $4 trillion budget. The average recipient gets $125 per month, enabling them to buy most types of food at a grocery store. Hot, prepared foods are normally not covered; however, exceptions were made last year in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida.
SNAP is included in the voluminous Farm Bill. The version of the bill proposed for 2018 included a requirement that all able-bodied SNAP recipients work at least 20 hours a week or participate in a job-training program.
On Friday, May 18, the Farm Bill was voted down 213-198; however, by June 4, it was reported that some members of the House of Representatives were seeking to pass a revised Farm Bill. This version would still put millions of SNAP recipients at risk for losing benefits, and enable wealthy farm owners to receive federal farm subsidies. Some members of Congress have personally benefitted from the subsidies, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they defended this most recent version of the bill.
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said the bill will help in “breaking the cycle of poverty.” Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri) said the legislation would help recipients “break the cycle of poverty by improving work opportunities for able-bodied adults receiving federal nutrition assistance.” And Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) responded this way to criticism that the bill is unfair: “What’s unfair is a government program encourages dependency rather than incentivizing independence via self-sufficiency.”
Islamic Relief USA has long supported food supplementation programs as they help prevent people of limited income from falling into poverty, and more importantly, help avoid starvation—providing a greater sense of food security. IRUSA frequently works with community organizations and food pantries to help local populations gain access to food that would otherwise be unavailable or unaffordable. IRUSA’S annual summer feeding program is based on USDA guidelines.
Under the proposed changes, funds that would be freed by curtailing food stamp benefits would go toward the creation of bureaucracies in each state, which would essentially wipe out any savings—and let millions go hungry.
We understand lawmakers’ concerns that SNAP has been abused by a small percent of recipients. But the great majority of the time, SNAP has served as an essential lifeline, the difference between people going hungry and having access to food. We encourage sensible legislation that would fix the program without leaving it a shell of its former self.