Letter to the Editor: The Importance of SNAP
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (formerly food stamps) is targeted at our most vulnerable: 76 percent of SNAP households include a child, senior or disabled person, and 85 percent have gross income at or below 100 percent of the poverty line. Deficit reduction is an important national priority, but it must not be undertaken without regard to our national values and it must not come at the expense of our most vulnerable.
Unfortunately, the House of Representatives left values on the sideline last week when it voted to slash hunger relief spending by nearly $36 billion. That it was done in the name of deficit reduction does not excuse the fact that cuts to anti-hunger programs at a time when need has never been greater are both reckless and short-sighted.
Taking care of our neighbors is an American value, and feeding our neighbors is a shared responsibility. Ozarks Food Harvest sees this partnership reflected in the generous support of our volunteers and donors, and we are grateful that this value is reflected in Washington through important anti-hunger programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly food stamps.
Some suggest that hunger is better solved by charity at the community level, but speaking from the frontlines, charity cannot do it alone. In fact, estimates suggest that charity provides only about 6 percent of all the food assistance in the U.S. Hunger is a national problem and it is one that needs a national solution, and that starts with a strong federal commitment to programs like SNAP.
Ozarks Food Harvest’s network is struggling to meet the tremendous increase in need from the recession. We can barely keep up as it is because of declining federal support for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides commodities for distribution through our member charities across 28 counties. There is no way that we would be able to make up the difference if SNAP were cut. Food banks like ours need more supply, not more demand.
Our nation has a long, bipartisan commitment to protecting low-income safety net programs in past deficit reduction agreements. The American people deserve a thoughtful dialog about real solutions. Congress should put the nation’s interests first and meet in the middle to craft policies that spur economic recovery and protect families when opportunity remains out of reach.
You can help by urging your Members of Congress to protect anti-hunger programs in the Farm Bill. Connect with Rep. Long, Sen. Blunt and Sen. McCaskill by dialing 877-698-8228 and entering your ZIP code when prompted. To contact your representatives via email, go to ozarksfoodharvest.org/advocacy.html or sign up as an advocate at hungeractioncenter.org.
—Bart Brown, president/CEO, Ozarks Food Harvest
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About Ozarks Food Harvest—The Food Bank
Ozarks Food Harvest is the Feeding America food bank for southwest Missouri, serving 250 hunger relief organizations across 28 Ozarks counties. The Food Bank distributes 12 million pounds of food annually to 170,000 unduplicated individuals. OFH was named the 2011 Small Business of the Year by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, and its facility, the O’Reilly Center for Hunger Relief, recently received a Superior AIB International Food Safety Rating. Learn more at ozarksfoodharvest.org, facebook.com/ozarksfoodharvest or twitter.com/ozksfoodharvest.