SNAP makes up two percent of the federal budget today, and government spending on poverty programs has grown in recent years from 14 percent of the federal budget to 19 percent. But federal spending on SNAP comes in well below Medicaid spending and tax credits for the working poor, like the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit. And the Congressional Budget Office projects federal spending on foods stamps will fall to 1.2 percent of federal spending by 2022 without policy changes.
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In the parking lot of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Scott Wilderman packs up his vehicle with food for his church pantry. Wilderman says he comes every week to the food bank to stock up. "More people out of work, more food given out, more people on food stamps," says Wilderman. "At our church, they have a lady that sits in there and signs people up for food stamps. So now they're like promoting food stamps to people," he says. Wilderman adds that it's the job of churches and charities to help the poor, not the government -- especially when the government can't afford it.
But Andrea Waterstreet, the disabled food stamp recipient, says she's been in line at a food pantry and the entire ordeal was beyond depressing. And the food was processed and unhealthy. "When I get to use my EBT card," says Waterstreet, "I get to feel like a normal person. I don't feel like, 'hey you're poor and everybody else knows it.' "
Waterstreet says there's nothing wrong with the government providing for people in need. She says poor people should be able to live with dignity, and food stamps help with that.
I caught the report this morning during Morning Edition (NPR) and my mouth just dropped. Know why?
This is an important report. How many stories have you seen or heard in the last month about people on assistance? Probably none. And here it was and it damn sure wasn't coming from Morning Edition. But we got it from the business show MarketPlace.
A lot of us are very fortunate not to be on food stamps currently. And it is very easy not to grasp what that's like. We need to be reminded.
[To be clear, my husband is a union member. We raised 8 kids. He went on strike when the union went on strike. Which means, yes, many times we were on food stamps while we raising our kids. I wasn't as lucky to have a card to swipe that would appear to be a debit or credit card to a causal onlooker. I had to use the actual food stamps. And you got looks. You got looks from people paying around you and you got looks from the checker. Oh well. We had eight kids. We had to eat. You do what you have to. And breaking a strike is not something that either my husband or I believe in.]
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday: