Monday, August 12, 2013

The SNAP Challenge (Part 3): The Detractors and Skeptics

There were 27 members of Congress who participated in the SNAP Challenge at about the time that the House of Representatives was first considering the Farm Bill.  The House separated the nutrition programs from the Farm Bill and is considering deep cuts in food stamps.  The House action must still be reconciled with the Senate version of the Farm Bill, which would cut only $4 billion in SNAP.

Anyway, Part 1 and  Part 2 of this series looked at the legislators who participated in the exercise.  

But the SNAP challenge also stirred legislators on the other side of the issue. Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas had an aide take challenge and then announce that it's "a breeze, no problem."

For $6.03 at the Shoppers Food Warehouse next door Ferguson bought a gallon of milk and a box of maple and brown sugar oatmeal.  So he's got a lot of cereal for breakfast, and he can have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, along with maybe some applesauce and fruit drink. For dinner, it looks like he's eating spaghetti for a couple nights and otherwise eating beans and rice. Also popsicles and cookies. Healthy diet, there! And such a varied menu at dinner. Perhaps Ferguson isn't aware that the definition of low food security is "reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake."   Read more in the online poitics site Politico

As it turns out, the aide did not complete the SNAP challenge  Read more here

And bloggers for the two Washington newspapers also weighed in.  A Washington Post  blog,simply pointed out that "The SNAP program is intended as a supplement; it is not expected to be the only source of income for food."  But the newspaper also said: "Various reports have indicated that it has had a positive impact, in particular in raising families out of poverty and helping people pay nonfood bills."

We wondered: Does $4.50 really reflect the reality of receiving SNAP assistance?  (We obviously take no position on whether benefits should be increased or decreased.)  Read More

Other detractors directed their criticisms on the lawmakers who took the SNAP Challenge, accusing them of inefficient budgeting skills in the choices of food purchases that they made during the SNAP Challenge. While there might be some truth that that argument, the criticisms miss the point.  The program is a lifeline for millions of low-income of Americans, and there is no justification to cut the funding in the way that many in Congress have proposed.  (And incidentally, the USDA, which manages the SNAP program, offers a handy guide entitled 10 Ways to Fill Your Grocery Bag through SNAP)

Regardless, the SNAP Challenge achieved one of its goals, which was to cast light on the food stamp program at a time when other issues seem to be getting more headlines.

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