I’m not ashamed to admit that my family and I reaped the benefits of what used to be known as food stamps. My dad worked very hard to pull in what he could while my mom raised all five of us with all of the resources she could find.
Eventually we moved past government aid and got ourselves on our feet. Now, as an adult who spends most of her time shopping, researching, and writing about food, I experience the challenge of finding quality, nutritious food without breaking the bank on a daily basis.
I can’t imagine what it was like for my parents, especially my mom as she managed a household of seven with limited financial means and without speaking English. As a kid, you don’t need to imagine that.
All that mattered was that the food was there, without fail, because we had the temporary help of government social welfare programs to get us there (same goes for health insurance, but that’s a whole conversation for another time).
Following the ongoing conversation about the proposed cuts to SNAP programs has been disheartening. The ongoing budget crises that continue to plague the Farm Bill and its many components threatens to change some of the important strides we’ve made to educate the public about healthy eating and provide access to quality, nutritious foods to a population that often doesn’t have access to it because of limited income.
New York City’s Greenmarket system administered by GrowNYC offers a fantastic grocery buying program that makes the fresh produce sold at farmer’s markets across the city available to EBT, WIC and FMNP (Farmers Market Nutrition Program) beneficiaries. The program has been wildly successful with EBT sales in 2012 exceeding $830,000.
According to GrowNYC, “EBT has become a critical supplement to farmers who depend on these markets for survival, as some farmers reported that EBT sales comprise 25% to 50% of their total income.” This has become a national model for how to successfully integrate federal food benefit programs into farmers market programs across the country.
But what will happen to this program when SNAP benefits are cut if the current version of the Farm Bill is passed?
How will these families afford to buy the quality produce they’ve previously purchased with EBT benefits?
How will this affect the livelihood of farmers who’ve generated more income with the aid of EBT sales?
How will this impact our national obesity epidemic if low-income families lose access to nutritious foods due to cuts in SNAP funding?
The questions are endless.
I don’t need to ask what would have happened if my family didn’t get the help of WIC and food welfare programs, because the help was there when we needed it most. But how many families are facing that question for themselves as they struggle to make ends meet?
Latinos make up 17 percent of the one in six Americans who use food stamps. According to the National Council of La Raza, Latino families experience food insecurity at a higher rate than non-Hispanic white households (23 percent versus 11 percent). SNAP is often a significant buffer from hunger for children, helping to ensure proper growth and development, the group said. Nearly one in three Latino children in the U.S. lives in a household receiving SNAP, according to NCLR.
Many who are against the cuts to SNAP point out that more than half of the recipients are already working, but putting healthy food on the table requires a livable wage, another raging issue affecting millions of Latinos and minorities across the country.
There are various proposals for a long-term Farm Bill that comprehensively addresses both the cost of living issue and access to affordable, quality foods for all families. The hope is that we will reach a consensus on how to improve the quality of life for Americans across the board. But we’re far from that goal as it stands.
#IStandwiththe47Million is a social media movement I came across in a plea from Margaret Purvis, the president of Food Bank for New York City. New York stands to bear the greatest brunt of this proposed cut, especially in our food bank programs across New York City. This threatens not only the survival of these programs, but the very survival of the thousands of hungry people who rely on food banks.
If you stand with the millions who are rallying against the proposed cuts to SNAP in the current Farm Bill law up for vote, then please do the following:
- Email your local senator or congressman/woman about why you believe SNAP benefits should not be cut from the bill
- Take a selfie pic of your feet and tweet why you #IStandwiththe47Million to @BarackObama and your local political leaders
- Invite your friends and family to join in—every voice matters, and we need ALL Americans to speak out
Research the impact of SNAP in your state and see how the cuts will affect you directly. Empower yourself with the facts and stand up for equal rights and access to food everywhere.