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  • Writer's pictureHunger-Free Pennsylvania

Food Stamps: Victory! (By losing?)

The House and Senate Agriculture committees have announced a compromise on the federal farm bill, potentially ending a two-plus-year fight over the enormously complex measure, which includes funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, known better as “food stamps.”

It’s hard to celebrate this legislation, when it includes a roughly $8 billion cut over 10 years to food-stamp funding, which is considered the most partisan issue in the 949-page bill. But it could have been worse --- a lot worse. Last year, Republicans passed a bill that would have cut nearly $40 billion in spending from food stamps, after a bill with $20 billion in cuts failed.

So this is a small victory because we didn’t lose as bad as expected. That’s not exactly a consolation. Let’s look at some facts:

  • Food stamps cover roughly one in seven Americans.

  • The number of people relying on food stamps has increased as the economic downturn has caused devastation across every sector and demographic.

  • For the first time, working-age people (between the ages of 18 and 59) make up the majority of Americans relying on government food stamps. This is a major shift in trends from a few years ago when children and elderly made up the bulk of those receiving the benefit.

This isn’t the first cut to food stamps in recent months. On Nov. 1, more than 47 million food stamp recipients saw their checks cut when a temporary addition in benefits to the program expired. The 2009 federal stimulus bill included the addition to aid families affected by the economic slowdown.

What all this means is that food banks will remain hard pressed to serve the rising needs in local community. And it makes it even more important for Pennsylvania to provide adequate funding for the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP). The governor unveils his proposed budget on Feb. 4. It’ll be must-see TV for all of us in the anti-hunger community.

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