Act now to save Child Nutrition Reauthorization and SNAP

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Today is the day.

Time is running out for Congress to pass a Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill strengthening nutrition programs for low-income children.  We’re talking hours. But many members want to pay for these programs by raiding funds from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).  This is wrong. Today we must make a stand and say “Yes to a strong child nutrition bill!”  but “No to taking food out of the mouths of low-income people to pay for this bill!”

Somebody please explain the logic to me, because I don’t get it.  SNAP shields people from hunger: people who lost their jobs due to the financial crisis; families with children living on tight food budgets; young people who can’t get a job because jobs just aren’t around; elderly people living on low fixed incomes.  The loss of SNAP benefits takes food off their tables and has serious implications for people we know and love.  A few scenarios:

A frail elderly person needs nutritious food to absorb her medications, but she lives in poverty and chooses those medications over food.  She can’t properly absorb her medicine, and her health conditions worsen.  She ends up needing medical attention.  And so the cycle begins.

Because of a decrease in SNAP benefits, a family resorts to cheaper food lacking proper nutrition but containing more fat and calories.  They struggle with obesity and resulting health problems.  They are maligned by members of their community and classmates who don’t understand their difficult choices and that one can be both malnourished and obese.

A child in a low-income family doesn’t eat an adequate dinner.  That child avoids school breakfast the next day for fear of being labeled as poor.  During class, the child is distracted by hunger pangs and fails an important test.  This becomes a pattern, and that child eventually drops out of school.

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill represents a critical opportunity to strengthen a bundle of programs placing a barrier between low-income children and hunger.  But what about the rest of the family who need SNAP benefits to supplement their food budget to make healthy meals? After all, Mom and Dad have jobs and need to eat too.

SNAP has the positive and broad effects of (1) reducing pressure on our strained health care system; (2) nourishing low-income children and bolstering the foundation for their academic success; (3) stimulating our economy, since  for every $5 in SNAP benefit used, $9 are generated in the local economy.

I’m certainly not an economist, but I do read the paper and listen to the news.  Quite frankly, I’m confused.  I see and hear things like “the economy is recovering,” “we could experience double-dip recession,” “the gap between rich and poor has never been wider.”   I don’t know if we’re recovering or tanking.

What I do know is in 2009, more than 4 million people in Texas, including nearly 2 million children, lived below the poverty line.  The poverty line equates to a family of four living on $460 a week.  (Some people – apparently more and more of them – make that much in an hour).

I also know passing a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill is absolutely critical for our country’s low-income children.  But doing so at the cost of nourishing our country’s low-income people, many of whom are raising children, is not the way to go about it.

What’s our demand?  We want our members of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, but not by using SNAP funds to pay for the bill.  We want our members to take more time to achieve a better deal for low-income families – children, youth, adults, and elderly people.

We want Congress to do the right thing.

To take action, please visit our website.

Wendy Heiges can be contacted at wheiges [at] austinfoodbank.org

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