David Beckmann: A Response to 'The Myth of the Starving Americans'
In his Jan. 30 opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, “The Myth of Starving Americans,” Warren Kozak fails to get his facts straight. In doing so, he does a great disservice to the millions of low-income people who honestly rely on school meals and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) to feed their families.
Nearly 49 million Americans currently struggle to put food on the table. These families don’t know where their next meals may come from, and on occasion they must skip meals or rely on food that is not sufficiently nutritious. Our federal nutrition programs, combined with the charitable response of food banks and food pantries, keep these families from going hungry.
The number of families struggling to put food on the table increased in 2008 with the start of the recession. But despite increased poverty and unemployment since then, that number has not changed due in large part to increased participation in nutrition programs. SNAP, school feeding programs, and food banks saw increased participation and demand during this same time period. Clearly these programs are meeting a real need.
The school meal information provided by Mr. Kozak was extremely misguided. The data he cited actually shows the number of both free and reduced-price meals, not just free lunches. Additionally, all school lunches — whether free, reduced-price, or full price — are reimbursed in some way by the federal government. School meals are at times the only healthy meal some kids receive in a day.
SNAP fraud rates are at an all-time low, despite all-time high participation. In addition, SNAP already has work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents. These participants are limited to three months of SNAP benefits in a three-year period. All SNAP participants must go through a time-intensive and invasive enrollment process, as well as biannual evaluations to ensure their incomes or living situations have not changed.
Federal nutrition programs target the neediest in our country and are clearly keeping Americans from going hungry. The vast majority of recipients are not trying to cheat the system but to honestly put food on the table while they regain their economic footing. As Christians called to protect and serve the most vulnerable people among us, we must ensure we get the facts straight and protect programs—such as school meals and SNAP — that help struggling families.
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