A call for compassion

The stigma of food stamps unveils an uncompassionate society.

On Friday, state Rep. Mary Franson released a YouTube video suggesting that promoting food stamps to those in need was akin to feeding animals. Though she has since apologized, Franson’s comments are reflective of the current vitriol found in modern politics. More importantly, such controversy deflects from the importance of services offered to the poor.

While it is a common argument that food assistance programs create dependency, the facts about such programs are rarely considered.

In her drive to reach eligible citizens for Minnesota’s food assistance program, Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon stated 65 percent of those eligible for government assistance do not receive it. Of those eligible but not receiving assistance, seniors are the greatest cohort. In Minnesota, 41 percent of all eligible seniors have yet to register.

In addition to a lack of awareness, the stigma of programs remains a barrier to many. Perhaps the most appalling data to come from all of this remains the effect on children. Nearly three-quarters of those on food stamps in Minnesota are families with children. Persistent hunger in childhood can lead to under-development and create greater health issues later in life.

Beyond the plight of hungry children and our state’s seniors, food assistance also helps those with disabilities stay as healthy as possible. Like seniors, many disabled Minnesotans are unable to work full time or find employment that offers a livable wage. For them, food assistance is a vital resource.

Though Franson’s remarks were insensitive, the lack of connection to suffering Minnesotans is the true controversy.