A new report by the Institute of Medicine recommends more funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The report, which was financed by the USDA, comes at a time when a tendency toward austerity rules certain segments of Washington politics, specifically the GOP-led House. Calls for cutting entitlement programs like SNAP, which costs about $75 billion a year, abound.
But the program is responding to an all-too-real need: Americans are going hungry.
Combating issues of hunger and food insecurity with nothing but government assistance is not, of course, a tenable solution over the long term. It’s called a social safety net because it catches citizens when they fall; the idea isn’t to stay trapped there. But at a moment when so many people are enrolled in SNAP—which hit a record high of 47.7 million people last September, according to the USDA—we have the opportunity to build a supportive community for people receiving food assistance, and to dispel some of the most divisive misconceptions about the program. We want to show the many ways people have managed to overcome the personal and economic hardships that led them to turn to SNAP and to do away with clichéd notions of lives lived on government cheese—and we want your help.
In conjunction with the release of A Place at the Table, a documentary by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush that examines the hunger crisis in America, TakePart is compiling the stories of Food Stamp Program and SNAP alumni. Was your family on food stamps when you were a child? Have you applied for food assistance as an adult? We want to hear your story. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your tale.
The country grappled with historic unemployment during President Obama’s first term, and the number of food-insecure households spiked from 11.1 percent in 2007 to nearly 15 percent in 2008 (according to the USDA). In 2008, 28.4 million people were on SNAP. That number has steadily risen over the past four years.
Amy H. Wood, co-executive at The Marcus Foundation, which advocates for both destigmatizing and the continuation of SNAP, tells TakePart that when nearly 50 million Americans are going hungry, change is desperately needed. “People who are now successful, who once needed a moment of government support to put food on the table, can be leaders in making this change,” Wood says.
Wood believes the SNAP Alumni project will have a far-reaching impact: “The people on food stamps need to hear their voices today; political leaders need to know that this program generates not moochers, but entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, senators and congressman.”
Jonathan J. Halperin, the Foundation’s other co-executive, sees how these stories will affect people who are currently enrolled in SNAP. He tells TakePart that alumni “can serve as mentors, role models, and generate a support system to help people find their way off food-stamps and into stable jobs that pay a living wage. The time to speak and act is now.”
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Willy Blackmore is the food editor at TakePart. He has also written about food, art, and agriculture for such publications as TastingTable, Los Angeles Magazine, The Awl, GOOD, LA Weekly, The New Inquiry, and BlackBook. Email Willy | TakePart.com