Midnight Shoppers Dependent on SNAP
Screenshot from Rock Center with Brian Williams/NBC.
Wait. That is what nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population does every month as they anticipate their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) benefits to drop into their account after midnight on the first of every month. Last night, the NBC News program Rock Center with Brian Williams reported on families on SNAP waiting in the middle of the night to shop for desperately needed food at Wal-Mart.
With increased unemployment and underemployment, more and more families are depending on SNAP to meet their basic food needs. SNAP is doing its job and is expanding in times of greater need. As the economy stays stagnant, an increasing number of families depend on the government as a line of defense against poverty. Despite some of the highest rates of poverty on record, food insecurity rates have stayed fairly stable because of SNAP's effectiveness.
SNAP also acts as an economic stimulus in local economies. Just one SNAP dollar generates $1.74 in economic activity. As Bread for the World Institute's 2012 Hunger Report points out, “The SNAP benefits moving through communities save jobs, making it possible for state and local governments to avoid layoffs of teachers, police officers, and other public employees, and preventing layoffs in the private sector as well.”
As Congress continues to debate budget cuts, a program such as SNAP that prevents U.S. families from going hungry must not be weakened. As a means-tested program, SNAP is exempt from sequestration, but negotiations have accelerated discussions of the farm bill, which funds SNAP. The farm bill is set to expire in 2012 unless it is reauthorized by Congress. Nearly 46 million Americans now depend on SNAP to put food on their tables, and we must keep the program in place for all of these families.
It is easier to bounce back when the fall is short. Cutting or weakening SNAP may create a canyon that is impossible for struggling families to scale.
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