Criticism aside, food stamp program is "an essential lifeline" for 46 million people
January 19th, 2012
12:30 PM ET
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Editor's note: Stacy Dean is the vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank that focuses on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income people.

In their attacks on the food stamp program, some Republican presidential candidates are leaving a deeply misleading impression of the nation's leading anti-hunger program. No one aspires to enroll, but for those who must, it is an essential lifeline that addresses one of the harshest impacts of poverty and unemployment - hunger.

The food stamp program, now officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provides about 46 million Americans in about 22 million low-income households with debit cards to buy food each month. Participants include families with adults who work in low-wage jobs, unemployed workers and people on fixed incomes, such as Social Security. About three-fourths of SNAP recipients live in households with children; more than one-quarter live in households with seniors or people with disabilities.

Read the full story on CNN Opinion: "Food stamp program a necessary lifeline"

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Filed under: Food Politics • Hunger • News • SNAP


soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. kim

    Not everyone has 240 thousand dollars to become a IP lawyer. cut them stamps ummhumm!! those famers and food companys are gunna go buck wild!! not growing american food then you have to eat food from china with all the cheamicals they put init yous gunna eat imported cheaper food eww there will less jobs more crime stores shuting ect etc it will be a bigger mess!! every action has a reaction ohh girl!! may god bless the untied states!! most of the time the suv at walmart aint even thers its a ride!!

    January 22, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  2. wesleyhinojosa

    Get free samples of Emergen-C vitamin drink mix from "Get Official Samples" Request it and enjoy free samples of these vitamin drink mixes.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  3. Brian

    I think the food stamp program should be terminated. Let the farmers grow as much food as possible (stop subidies for leaving farm ground fallow), the government buys food to distribute to ANYBODY WHO WANTS IT. There would be no incentive to sell the food on the black market, as food stamps currently are. The freeloaders in society would be given nutritious food, they would have to learn to cook it, and there would be no "change back from my food stamp purchases" that could be used to purchase tobacco products or alcohol! In fact, since I have to pass a drug test to EARN the money, recipients should have to pass one to GET my money. They also shouldn't have pets, drink alcohol, or use tobacco! If you can't support yourself, you shouldn't have bad habits, which will end up costing me AGAIN in the health care system!

    January 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Observer

      You're an idiot.
      Bitter and angry much?

      January 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • vintage274

      There is no longer change back in most states for food stamps because they are distributed through an automated debit card program. You need a pin number to access. The old black market thing is no longer a big problem due to our digital age. You're complaining about something that happened 40 years ago.

      January 22, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  4. TJS

    "The food stamp program, now officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provides about 46 million Americans in about 22 million low-income households with debit cards..."
    Also I don't think this is technically correct. SNAP is available to certain illegal immigrants, and I'm sure there are many on the program. The CBPP website says there are 46 million PARTICIPANTS, not 46 million Americans. Of course it's so capricious and arbitrary which illegal immigrants get SNAP...

    January 19, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • CN Red

      Excellent point!

      January 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Truth™@TJS

      46 million Americans...That is a lot. What is REALLY disturbing is that there are 312 million Americans, which means that close to one in six is in that program. THAT is what is most scary to me.

      January 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • vintage274

      In California the first requirement for food stamp assistance is proof of citizenship. Get your story right. No illegals in Calfornia receive either food stamps or mediCal (the equivalent of Medicaid in other states).

      January 22, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  5. TJS

    46 million people are on food stamps in the U.S.??? Is that not an insanely high number to anyone? Is it not so insanely high that everyone in government would find it to be of a number one national priority to get the number down?

    January 19, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  6. TJS

    "No one aspires to enroll..."
    That's not true. Maybe most people don't aspire to enroll, but I knew plenty of families and people where I grew up who definitely aspired to be on food stamps versus looking for work, or accepting work if found. You can't generalize with a "no one aspires to enroll" statement. There are people who do seek the program out because it's there, and it seems appealing to them versus other alternatives. And here's something even more true: many people who are enrolled aspire to stay enrolled versus other alternatives.

    January 19, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • MLH

      Well i don't aspire to stay enrolled. I just felt like i needed to respond due to not being able to find work for several months. I would take a job @ a doughnut shop if they were hiring. I have suffered with a couple of mental disorders for the majority of my life. I lost my job and then my car and live in a small farm town with very limited opportunities. (SNAP) has helped me to feed myself since i do live by myself and don't have family to help support. I am not an immigrant.

      January 22, 2012 at 5:29 am |
      • Laura

        Thank you for having the courage to share your experience. Yes, unfortunately there are people who take advantage of the program, but I am grateful that as a country we attempt to help those, like you, who are authentically trying to make ends meet.

        January 22, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • vintage274

      I'm going to call you on this one. The food stamp budget is $4 or under per day per person. Figure out how to exist on that, my friend. NO ONE in their right mind aspires to go on food stamps to escape a job. It's a deadly dull existence of beans, rice, pasta with the occasional pot of soup or chili. Food stamps are meant to be supplmentary to one's income, which is why they don't do the job in feeding anyone fully for a day.

      January 22, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  7. signalfire

    My daughter is in full time college and qualifies for food stamps. My son has a college degree but is disabled with fibromyalgia and cannot get work. He's on food stamps. I worked for 40+ years and was laid off and cannot find work, I'm also on food stamps. Not all of us are 'generational leeches'. I put into the system for all those years and paid my taxes, and my kids will work as soon as they can.

    If we have enough money to send the Pentagon on all sorts of excursions (700+ bases thoughout the world, each soldier costing 1 million a year?) and enough money to bail out banks both foreign and domestic, and all the presidential candidates are millionaires, I think we have enough money to make sure children and the elderly, as well as anyone else, can eat. After all, the food stamp money goes right back into the economy and helps farmers. It also probably cuts down on the petty robbery rate (hungry people get desperate). Trillions for bailouts for rich corrupt bankers. What do the food stamps cost tax payers?

    January 19, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • VladT

      If your daughter is at a point in her life where she could either get a job or become a full time student and use other people's money to buy food, I am glad she took the moral high ground to steal other people's taxes for her degree in Art History

      January 20, 2012 at 7:50 am |
      • Loren

        VladT, you are disgusting. You don't know what her daughter is studying in college. Besides, the poster wrote that her daughter QUALIFIES for food stamps, not that she is receiving them. In contrast, she wrote that her son is "on" food stamps. She also wrote that she had worked and paid her taxes for forty years, so where do you get off saying her daughter is "stealing from taxpayers", presuming she is actually getting benefits? Frankly, I would rather her daughter finish her degree, because that increases her chances of becoming an employed taxpayer rather considerably.

        Additionally, I know a number of people receiving SNAP benefits, and all of them are working, except for the children. Ever heard of the "working poor"? I assure you, they DO exist, and will continue to exist as long as employers will not pay a living wage and the government's "minimum wage" is nowhere close to a living wage. In this city I live in, the local news recently reported that the average rent for a two bedroom apartment is 677$, and that's not for a place in a toney (or even 'safe') area. If you were making 12$ an hour and NOT paying for health insurance, that would be almost exactly half of your take home (after taxes incl. FICA) pay. You then have to pay utilities and transpo to and from work. That MAY leave enough to eat on if one is relatively frugal. If you are making anything less, which a majority of people are, you could not afford to buy much food at all. On 12$/hr, one does NOT qualify for any kind of public assistance unless one has several children at least. And don't give me the "don't have kids if you can't afford them" saw. it used to be that a living wage DID allow people to have a couple of children. Who are any of us to tell others they shouldn't or can't have kids? The drive to reproduce is the highest biological imperative. If the majority of Americans cannot realistically afford to have children, something is terribly wrong in our country. Something is also wrong when a large number of people view feeding the hungry of our country as "stealing" from them.

        January 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
      • Loren

        Oh and before you try to claim otherwise, I am childless by choice and though disabled I receive NO public assistance of any kind. None. Not even SS/SSDI OR SNAP. No one in my family or my spouse's family does either.

        January 20, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
      • VladT

        Thanks for calling me disgusting for stating facts using logic, rather then emotion like you. As in most debates, after the name calling, I have no interest to read the rest of your tirade. Have a good day though

        January 21, 2012 at 7:01 am |
      • EH

        Apologies. I am like the original poster's thief of a daughter. I'm currently stealing your money so my family can eat while I get my M.D. so that I can give back to the community in the form of my services for Medicaid, Medicare, insured and non-insured patients, and my money in taxes. I could be working and maybe making 30,000 a year for the rest of my life, but I chose to go to medical school instead and use my education to help people in need while getting my family above the poverty line. It's a blessing that there is help available to feed my family in this economy since shortly after I started school my husband was laid off due to a 75% department cut. Now all his college diploma can get him is a job delivering food.
        Not everyone on SNAP is lazy. Many of us work our butts off but the sad fact is that isn't enough in this economy.

        January 28, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  8. Trollie McFischerman

    Public aide of any kind is the liberal agenda. Steal from those who've earned it and pass out it to lazy bums who sit on the couch all day. Have some pride! Get a JOB! Sick of those leaching off of others.

    January 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Name

      Because every employer offers a living wage and none of them pay only the totally inadequate minimum wage? No they don't. They get employees for as little as they can because anything a CEO saves makes him richer.

      These programs are based on bridging the gap between a living wage and what corporate big wigs are willing to offer.
      The problem is that there is an imbalance. The cost of living is higher than many so called employers are willing to pay. The question is,
      does the problem lie in the fact that the labor is not worth that amount of fiat money,
      or is the problem that the so called employer doesn't have a working business plan?
      Perhaps the so called employer's idea for a business sucks and the so called employer should give it up and get a job.

      January 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
      • VladT

        Without those employers, there are no jobs. By the way, you are implying that everyone on food stamps is working. That is a complete fabrication of the truth. Us working people are upset that our taxes are being used for people who DO NOT work, and yet get free food, as well as other assistance.

        January 20, 2012 at 7:49 am |
  9. Truth™

    As much as I have a complete, total and utter disdain for politicians of BOTH stripes these days, I think it is a complete travesty that we give aid to nations that hate us, while our own people are going hungry. Makes we want to grab a pitchfork and head to DC.

    January 19, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  10. Down by the river

    LOLZ, there is a culture embedded here that teaches their children to seek out all of the assistance programs available as a means for life-long sustenance. The cycle is then repeated with their children. It’s not completely their fault. The government should rewrite the rules on some of it such as "If you make more than $300 a month you can't receive any benefits from this program." WTH!?!! Who can live on that? You are better off sitting at home and getting the freebies!

    January 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  11. CN Red

    Where's my Supplemental Mortgage Assistance Program?

    January 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • TruthForReal

      Lol CN Red! That was brilliant!

      January 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • taxed enough

      Where's my Supplemental Heating Assistance Program? Oh, there is one (LIHEAP), I just don't qualify because I worked hard and earned and saved for my heating for the winter.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:36 am |
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