June 24, 2013
On Thursday, the House of Representatives rejected the farm bill 195 to 234. The bill, backed by the Republican party, called for a 20.5 billion dollar cut in food stamp programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which would have left 2 million men, women, and children without assistance.
The bill also included controversial amendments, calling for states to authorize drug testing for anyone applying for food stamp programs, as well as an amendment banning those convicted of violent rape, murder, or pedophilia from being eligible to receive aid. What these amendments ignore are the families, especially the children, who are effected by these exclusions and left without food in their stomachs. Denying families food stamps and barring them from programs such as SNAP also limits what other assistance programs they may qualify for, including free or reduced lunch in public schools. Despite the fact that there is no evidence to show criminals or drug users are more likely to use food stamps than non-criminals and non-drug users, there is a constant effort by the supporters of these major cuts to equate criminality with the need for food stamps, ignoring the rest of the population who work full time—or more— and are unable to provide food for their families.
In conversation with Joy Reid and Laurie Silverbush on “All In” with Chris Hayes, Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America, explains the importance of food assistance programs:
“The reason we are not Somalia or Haiti or North Korea is the program is working [...] The reason we don’t have mass starvation is this program is helping tens of millions of American families survive. The facts are that before the 1970s when we had the modern program we did have third-world style malnutrition, and the facts prove that these programs when properly implemented almost entirely ended hunger in the 1970s.”