Times continue to be tough for thousands of Washington families. Long-term unemployment is still rising, and now, more than 10,000 Washington workers have come to the end of their unemployment benefits. One in eight children in our state live in households where someone is experiencing unemployment.
Yet Congress is breezing through a series of budget bills, and the 2012 Farm Bill as though the future of our kids and our nation's ability to feed them were not at stake. They are wrong.
One in four Washington children struggle against hunger. In these families meals are skipped, food is rationed, cheaper but less healthy food is purchased, and choices are made between food, rent, medicine and the gas needed to get to work. These families face the dilemma of “heat or eat” every day.
What are our national policymakers doing to respond to this crisis? Cutting our nation’s number-one defense against hunger – SNAP, or the food stamp program. The House budget written by Rep. Ryan cuts $134 billion, and the House Agriculture Committee approved a bill to take away another $36 billion. SNAP has worked exactly as it was designed to do, expanding to meet the growing demand during hard economic times, just as it contracted in the better economic times of the 1990s.
Even the Senate Agriculture Committee has approved a Farm Bill with a $4.5 billion cut to the program – a cut that will take $90 per month out of the food budgets of 200,000 Washington families. They say it’s a “loophole” they are filling. Who is going to fill the $90 per month “loophole” in family food budgets?
Washington’s Representative Jim McDermott summarizes attempts to cut SNAP: “Children make up nearly half of the Americans who rely on food stamps… If we truly want to protect our children’s future, we cannot steal food off their dinner tables. To protect our future, we must protect SNAP.”
Yolanda Tinoco of Bellevue knows firsthand the difference SNAP can make:
"Before I had the food assistance, I couldn’t give my kids the healthy food they needed. I would be at the grocery store, and I would look at the healthy food, fresh food, and I wanted to buy it for them, but then I would realize that if I did, they would go hungry because I couldn’t buy enough. When I got the food assistance I was able to buy them what I know they need. I can send them to school with a healthy snack. They have more energy, they are stronger, and they don’t complain of headaches and stomachaches anymore."
Parents know what it takes to raise healthy kids. Let’s give Congress some wise parental advice: Protect and strengthen SNAP; it’s good for kids.