Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The SNAP Challenge (Part 2): Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham

One of the SNAP challenge meals
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been very clear in her opposition to proposed cuts to the SNAP program. To demonstrate her solidarity with SNAP recipients in New Mexico and around the country, she joined more than two dozen other members of Congress in the SNAP Challenge.   Read more in Part 1 of this series.

In a recorded statement for members of the audience who attended a screening of A Place at the Table on June 24, Rep. Lujan Grisham offered some impressions on her experiences with the SNAP challenge.

Here are some excerpts:  
"I realized soon enough there was no way that I was not going to be able to afford a week’s worth of nutritious food on just $31.50, just as many families in New Mexico do...I filled my basket with just that food the night before, mostly processed food and carbohydrates, pasta, ramen and rice...I did manage to get in a few apples and bananas, but certainly not enough fruit to last a week only a meal or two...I couldn’t afford a single fresh vegetable or two.

I will admit it. A SNAP Challenge is tough...I was constantly hungry, I was sluggish, and I had trouble focusing on my work....In a state where one in three are chronically hungry, the worst in the nation, this is a sacrifice in that many parents in New Mexico make every day...What did I learn from my SNAP challenge?...It’s a possible to live on just $4.50 a day…It’s impossible to feed yourself and your family sound nutritious food."
The congresswoman has frequently spoken out against the proposals by the Republican leadership in Congress to cut SNAP.  She provided the following answer in a  "townhall meeting" on Facebook on June 18.

Hi Susie, Sheryl, Dorothy, and Carlos. Thanks for your questions regarding the Farm Bill and SNAP cuts.

I voted against the Farm Bill in the Agriculture Committee based on my concerns about cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, “food stamps”), totaling $20.5 billion. New Mexico was recently ranked worst in the nation for child hunger, and 49th for adults. In the midst of a continuing recession, and with such widespread food insecurity, I cannot support cuts of this magnitude to such a vital program. Further, taking the #SNAPChallenge has shown me how difficult it is to try and get by on the benefits provided now. At the same time, I recognize how important the Farm Bill is to farmers, ranchers, and consumers, and I will continue working with my colleagues to produce a bill that supports vital farm programs while maintaining funding for the SNAP program.

Rep. Steve Pearce and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, the two other members of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Mexico, did not participate in the SNAP Challenge, but each has made statements regarding the   vote in Congress on the Farm Bill.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan
When the first version of the bill was first proposed with a $20 billion cut, the congressman from northern New Mexico issued the following statement:
"I am deeply disappointed that at a difficult economic time when families are struggling to put food on the table, farmers and ranchers are struggling with drought conditions, and New Mexico’s dairies are in need of important tools for success, House Republicans brought a Farm Bill up for a vote that makes drastic cuts to vital food nutrition programs and fails to provide the help our farmers and ranchers need. With New Mexico leading the nation in childhood hunger and families still struggling in the wake of the recession, we should not be slashing aid that helps feed our children."
That first version of the House bill was defeated, but the House came back with another measure that stripped provisions to fund nutrition programs, including SNAP, from the main Farm Bill.  At that point, Rep. Lujan issued this statement:  
“Last month, House Republicans brought a Farm Bill up for a vote that slashed $20 billion from food assistance programs that help families and their children from going hungry when they fall on hard times.  Today, House Republicans went one step further by bringing up a new bill that completely removes funding for these programs.  At a time when New Mexico leads the nation in child hunger, the last thing we should be doing is attacking programs that help prevent our children from going to bed hungry.  Read Full Press Release
Rep. Steve Pearce
In contrast, Rep. Steve Pearce, whose district covers southern New Mexico, supported the move in the House to separate nutrition programs from the Farm Bill.  Here is his statement:   
We as a Congress must provide farmers and hardworking families nationwide with the certainty this legislation offers.  The assurances nutrition assistance programs provide are too important to be denied and should be addressed immediately. The separate bills provide an opportunity to remove waste, fraud, and abuse from these programs, making them work for the families who need them the most. I urge my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to work together to find the solutions and reforms needed to provide all Americans with the certainty this legislation can offer for years to come.”  Read Full Press Release
Next: Part 3: Detractors and Skeptics

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