In defense of food stamps

Politicians must defend the valuable SNAP program.

Ronald Dixon

While Congressional Republicans were voting to slash food stamps, or SNAP, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) used caviar and steak as props in a House speech to depict Congress’ hypocrisy on food legislation.

Coupled with the House Republicans’ vote to fund farm subsidies, the SNAP budget cuts show the backward priorities of Congress. Our politicians attack food stamps as a program for moochers while doling out subsidies for agribusinesses.

Thanks to this concept of welfare, the myths of food stamps are omnipresent.

Perhaps one of the ignorant ideas about food stamps is that it’s a program that many Americans do not need. This is hardly the case. Given the current unemployment rate of 7.3 percent, and many Americans working low-wage jobs, the program is still needed by 47 million vulnerable Americans.

The need is also apparent when we look at how many college students are using food stamps. The rate of food stamp use by college-aged Americans has doubled from 5.4 percent to 12.6 percent from 2001 to 2010. College students further bear the brunt of unfortunate economic conditions because they must work at least 20 hours per week in order to qualify for food stamp benefits. Interestingly, college credits were accepted until the welfare reforms of the 1990s.

Another fallacious talking-point is that food stamps are abused at rampant rates. In reality, though, more than 90 percent of food stamp funds are distributed to households with disabled, elderly or working individuals. Moreover, only three percent of food stamps went to ineligible households or exceeded the maximum benefits, and human error is attributed to the vast majority of the mistakes.

Finally, the recipients of food stamps are often categorized as moochers. Fox News epitomized this stereotype when it documented the case of Jason Greenslate, a young, Californian surfer that lives off of food stamps. He is an able-bodied individual that spends his days surfing and playing in a rock band. Although Greenslate is planning on making a career in music, he has opted out of looking for real employment.

Greenslate should not be perceived as the face of food stamps, as he is merely one of the outliers in the incredible pool of Americans that are reliant upon the program for basic nutritional necessities. Moreover, reporting on these extreme cases further stigmatizes the needy from obtaining food stamps because of the pre-conceived notions of laziness.

Legislators should not be focused upon cutting a program that allows for millions of Americans to feed themselves and their families. Moreover, slashing much-needed spending after the Great Recession doesn’t bode well with the economic forecast.

Indeed, politicians should not be focused on rampant cuts, but rather more programs to help those that are in need. Instead of weakening the social safety net, politicians on both sides of the aisle should team up to strengthen this valuable asset to the American people.

Unfortunately, though, some Congressional Republicans continue to insist that welfare programs, such as SNAP, only serve those who contribute nothing to society. However, this is far from the case.