In its latest story online today, The Hidden Benefits of Food Stamps, the Food & Environment Reporting Network (FERN) and Mother Jones teamed up with reporter Christopher Cook to take a hard look at the future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, which is on the cutting block as soon as next week.
Cook reports that SNAP will most likely be cut by $5 billion on November 1 when the Recovery Act expires, resulting in $46 less assistance per month for a family of four and $11 less for a single person. Studies have long shown that SNAP is one of the most effective programs for lifting families out of poverty and also stimulating the broader economy.
“Food stamp dollars are among the best forms of government stimulus—feeding Americans while creating economic activity and jobs in the farm sector and beyond,” writes Cook.
The data-rich report features charts showing how each food stamp dollar generates an additional $1.73 in economic activity and that every $1 billion of retail food demand by SNAP recipients generates 3,300 farm jobs. Another chart details the record number of individuals lifted out of poverty through the program in 2012.
Eighty-three percent of food stamps go to households with children, seniors, and non-elderly people with disabilities. “Children are especially vulnerable to the lifelong ripple effects of poverty—exposed to hunger, under-nourishment, and a greater likelihood of chronic illnesses and disease,” reports Cook. “But studies show that when poor families get food stamps, kids’ nutrition and health improve.”
Cook’s report includes additional charts showing that food stamp programs help increase children’s intake of iron, zinc, niacin, thiamin, and vitamin A, which can reduce the risk of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes later in life.
“In addition to boosting the economy and job creation, food stamps have helped millions of Americans climb out of poverty and away from hunger,” Cook writes. “The dollars put food on the table, and by covering much of poor people’s food expenses, they free up vitally needed cash to cover rent and other necessities, helping people stabilize their lives and get back on their feet.”
The Republican attack on food stamps is “totally counter-factual,” Peter Edelman, professor of law at Georgetown University and a former Clinton administration official who resigned in protest of the 1996 welfare overhaul, tells Cook. “Millions of people are unemployed and millions more don’t earn enough to pay all their bills. The idea that food stamps, which provide support at one-third of the poverty line, is incentivizing people not to seek jobs that don’t exist anyway is beyond bizarre.”