Real Cuts, Real Consequences: Advocates Respond to SNAP Cuts
Yesterday, the government relations interns at Bread for the World braved the ‘July-in-DC’ humidity with more than 100 individuals, including members of Congress, NGOs, faith groups, and numerous anti-hunger advocacy organizations, to oppose the draft farm bill released by the House Agriculture Committee. Together, in front of the Capitol, we raised our voices – and our signs – against the proposed $16.5 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). These proposed cuts would cause 2 to 3 million people to lose their SNAP benefits entirely, cause another 500,000 households to see a $90 reduction in monthly benefits, and end free school meals for nearly 300,000
Hungry children and struggling families are not just numbers or statistics -- they are human lives. They are our friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans. As each Member of Congress stood up and spoke, we heard different viewpoints on the same message: “We must protect SNAP to protect these families.” The 10 congressional leaders at this event spoke with shakings fists, raised arms, and words of devout promise -- they will not stand by and allow the $16.5 billion cut to SNAP.
Though many congressional leaders started their speeches by pointing fingers at different political parties, Rev. Gary Cook, director of church relations at Bread for the World reminded us that, “this is not a Republican or Democratic issue; this is a moral issue.” As people of faith, it is our duty to help and protect hungry and poor people. Isaiah 56:10 says, “Pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted.” Still, Congress cannot find the money (or rather, the heart) to stop cuts to a vital program like SNAP, which currently helps 46 million food insecure people in the United States. Rev. Gary Cook called on our nation, which proclaims its trust in God, to live by God’s priorities and to create a circle of protection around programs that are vital to hungry and poor people. This starts by protecting SNAP from the proposed House farm bill cuts.
One of the most moving parts of the press conference was hearing from members of Congress and advocacy leaders whose lives have been positively impacted by SNAP. Instead of speaking as congresswomen, successful business owners, and experts, participants courageously told the audience about the single mothers, injured fathers, and poor children they once were.
For example, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) was a fulltime working mother of a 1, 3, and 5-year-old, and wife to a husband who walked out on her and her children. Rep. Woolsey found that she could not afford to put food on the table without assistance from SNAP. The program allowed Rep. Woolsey to raise three, healthy, tax-paying and hard-working children. It is this personal experience that makes Rep. Woolsey a passionate advocate for SNAP as an investment in our country’s future. These speakers became not only the face of hunger to those around them, but an example of the positive impact that SNAP can make on a person’s life. They offered a powerful reminder that no one is immune from falling on hard times. The SNAP program, as described by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), serves as a “bridge over troubled waters,” offering necessary support and a path to a better future.
We are grateful to have participated in such a timely event. The House Agriculture Committee is marking up their version of the farm bill right now. Do your part and call your member of Congress todayat 1-800-326-4941, and tell them to vote against the proposed cuts to SNAP. We raised our voices (and our signs) on Capitol Hill yesterday, and now we need activists across America to join us in creating a circle of protection around the SNAP program.
Anna Wiersma and Jackie Cox are government relations interns at Bread for the World. Anna Wiersma is a rising senior at Valparaiso University, and Jackie Cox is a rising senior at Birmingham Southern College.
Photo caption: (From L to R) Anna Wiersma, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, and Jackie Cox participate in a press conference to oppose cuts to programs for poor and hungry people in Washington, DC, on July 10, 2012. Photo by Grace Elliott.
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