“I haven’t eaten in three days,” a mother told me recently as I served a volunteer meal at the First United Methodist Church with some friends. “My SNAP benefits ran out and I fed all the food I could afford to my children.”
Her son, eating with us at the table, looked up from his plate with bright blue eyes and a shy smile as his mother continued to explain the relief she felt after discovering the church was providing a Saturday night dinner.
Although food provided by community meals and food pantries tremendously helps families like hers, it is our federal nutrition programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly known as food stamps, that provide 94% of food aid to America’s poorest families.
This mother’s story is just one example of many across Kansas and the United States. I’m writing because the 274,000 Kansans and 44 million Americans who rely on SNAP to put food on the table may be in danger of losing their benefits after this holiday season, once our next set of elected officials begin work in Washington.
For the past several years House Republican budget plans have included proposals that would convert SNAP into a block grant as a means to slash SNAP expenditures deeply, with last year’s plan proposing to cut SNAP by $135 billion over 10 years.
Turning SNAP into a block grant will replace our singular federal program with 50 individual state programs, capping the amount of funds per state and limiting the number of qualifying beneficiaries. Block-granting SNAP will also diminish SNAP’s ability to adapt to our ever changing economy and will severely limit the number of families it can aid in times of economic decline.
A weak economy correlates to increased SNAP enrollment, whereas a recuperating economy sees reduced enrollment —a block grant will fail to keep up with such tumultuousness.
Currently, SNAP is one of our most effective government programs — 99% of benefits go to people who qualify for them. Programs such as SNAP not only help families financially, but also have noteworthy effects on the well-being of children. Children who benefit from these government programs perform better in school— those who receive SNAP benefits are 18 percent more likely to complete high school compared to their counterparts who do not receive benefits.
These children also have increased economic opportunities later in life and are generally healthier than children who grow up without SNAP. Cuts to the program would prove detrimental to the children it was created to serve. We should look to extend SNAP’s success rather than dismantle it.
It is imperative that we protect our state’s most defenseless families against hunger and its damaging effects. Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, as well as Reps. Lynn Jenkins, Kevin Yoder, and soon-to-be Rep. Roger Marshall, should listen to the stories like those of the mother and child I met, and the millions like them, and reject any proposals to cut or blockgrant SNAP. Instead, they must invest in making sure no Kansan goes hungry.
Kennedy Hackerott is a Kansas State University student.