What Do You Know About Food Stamps? Another US Congressman Fights Cuts, Takes The Challenge (VIDEO)

Representative Peter DeFazio D-OR faces the challenge of shopping withFood Stamps

US Rep. on taking the Food Stamps challenge: ‘There goes the yogurt. There goes a bunch of protein with the nuts, down to two apples for the week …’ Photo screen captured from video by KEZI News via Atlas Left.

Imagine figuring out how to feed yourself and your family when you’ve got only $35 in grocery shopping funds for the week. If you’re creeping through the grocery store aisles with $35, a shopping basket and a calculator (a cart would be too optimistic) — and that’s all you’ve got to feed everyone in your household — then you might have SOME idea of how it feels to be someone on food stamps. Only, we don’t call it “food stamps” any more. Thanks to former president George W. Bush, we now call “food stamps” the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” (SNAP). This way, Americans who strongly believe in upward mobility won’t notice how downwardly mobile we’ve become. For folks who’ve exhausted unemployment benefits and any other help available — or who actually work but whose employers do not pay them a living wagefood stamps are a lifeline.

According to Ned Resnikov from MSNBC, this lifeline could become a lot more tenuous now that a GOP-led House committee has approved a version of the 2013 Farm Bill that would cut $20.5 billion from the food stamps SNAP program over the next ten years. No matter what you call it, that could really hurt. Naturally, the Democrats in Congress plan on fighting this version of the Farm Bill. Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) told reporters at a press conference last Thursday, “The $20.5 billion cut in SNAP is a poison pill. It means that we shouldn’t be supporting the farm bill.” Ugh. I can already hear Fox News ‘personalities’ shrieking about how liberals hate farmers.

Lauren Mickler from KEZI Channel 9 reports from Springfield, Oregon that congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) is the latest lawmaker to take the Food Research and Action Council (FRAC)’s SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge since Newark, New Jersey mayor and U.S. Senate candidate Cory Booker made headlines back in December. The KEZI news crew followed DeFazio to his local supermarket, where the mild-mannered, bespectacled congressman attempted to do his shopping for the week on only $31.50.

… his funds are fixed to $31.50 because that’s the average weekly allowance for American Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. That already small share could get smaller if proposed cuts from Congress come through – a proposed 20-percent cut to SNAP, which has DeFazio worried.

“Twenty percent of the people are seniors. Half of them are kids, and the majority of the rest are working for low wages to get food stamps, and I sure don’t begrudge them a little bit of help they’re getting,” DeFazio said.

When he reached the cash register, DeFazio discovered that he had gone slightly over his limit, and then removed a few more items from his cart to represent the proposed 5% SNAP/Food Stamps program cut:

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“There goes the yogurt. There goes a bunch of protein with the nuts, down to two apples for the week. That’s a little light.”

The congressman and news reporter seemed amazed by how “tedious and complicated” it was to stay within such a slender budget while attempting to provide adequate calories and even somewhat meet human nutritional requirements.

Here’s the video:

Here are some facts from The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a trusted, non-party affiliated research organization:

(1) SNAP recipients are NOT mooching welfare bums: Two thirds of Americans receiving food stamps are elderly and disabled citizens, or children, who can’t just go out and get a job. At least not until the GOP succeeds in making child labor legal again. 58% of SNAP households with working-age, non-disabled adults have at least one person participating in the workforce (too bad their employers don’t pay them enough to eat); and 82% were working the year before or after receiving SNAP benefits. Amongst families with children on SNAP, workforce participation is even higher, with 62% employed while receiving SNAP, and a whopping 87% employed in the prior or subsequent year. These numbers strongly suggest that people receiving food stamps who are capable of working really want to work, but either lose their jobs or find that their jobs don’t pay enough.

(2) SNAP DOES reward people for working: Rather than encouraging “laziness,” as the Republicans claim, SNAP’s benefit formula is specifically designed to ensure that employed people come out ahead — even when cheap employers who refuse to pay living wages push hard to ensure otherwise. The Feds deduct only 20% from households earnings when calculating benefit amounts. When a worker wins a raise, an increase in hours, or both, his or her SNAP benefits “decline only modestly and gradually — by 24 to 36 cents for each additional dollar earned.” In fact, plutocrats like the Waltons and the Koch brothers should thank food stamps for making their lavish lifestyles possible, while deterring angry mobs with torches and guillotines: “SNAP typically boosts low-wage workers’ incomes by 10 percent or more.” Conservatives and pro-business lobbyists should be grateful that someone rewards the diligent work ethic they preach, even if it is big government … otherwise, they’d have to be the ones paying the rewards out of their own ample pockets.

(3) SNAP is as — or more — effective and cost-efficient than most businesses: Just under 95% of federal spending on food stamps goes directly to people in need. The remaining covers administrative costs and overhead. SNAP has cracked down massively on errors, waste, and fraud. SNAP’s quality control system is currently one of the most rigorous amongst public programs.  SNAP has driven down costs to the point where it can help its recipients for less than $1.50 per meal. Like many federal and state programs, SNAP became lean and mean a long time ago. The only reason SNAP has been spending more money in recent years — despite taking stringent measures to contain costs — is because so many more Americans need help these days. According to PBS, 47 million Americans receive food assistance.

(4) SNAP keeps an awful lot of Americans from going hungry: Back in the 20th century, America became prosperous, and we dreamed — along with humanitarians from all over the world — of eliminating hunger and starvation from the world, permanently. Back then, technology and economic prosperity held promise for making this possible. Fast forward into 2013.  Thanks to decades of conservative economic policies, more folks are going hungry than ever … even in supposedly industrialized, modern nations like America. From the CBPP’s blog:

The number of U.S. families living on less than $2 per person a day — one World Bank definition of poverty for developing nations —doubled between 1996 and 2011, as did the number of extremely poor children.  However, counting SNAP benefits as income cuts the number of households in extreme poverty in 2011 from 1.46 million to nearly 800,000 and cuts the number of children in extreme poverty from 2.8 million to 1.4 million.

To find out how you can fight SNAP cuts and urge your representatives in congress to take the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge, visit FRAC’s Take Action page.

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