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SNAP Op Ed by WMass Food Bank's Andrew MoreHouse; AGENDA for 2/28 SNAP Coalition Meeting

Below is a WONDERFUL Op Ed by Food SNAP Coalition Member and ED of the Food Bank of Western Mass, Andrew Morehouse. The letter was published on 2/7/2012 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and a similar article printed on 2/15/2012 in the Greenfield Recorder. THANK YOU ANDREW for an excellent rebuttal to the myths and highlighting the critical importance of the SNAP program!  It is critical to get the word out in the importance of SNAP benefits and, as Andrew so eloquently says, to STOP demagoging the food safety net.  If Coalition members need help with letters to the editor, please let MLRI know. 

The NEXT Boston-based Food SNAP Coalition Meeting is Tuesday, February 28, 2012 from 10 to 12 at St Francis House. 

The Agenda will include:
*Update on the Boston SNAP Web unit processing
*Information on the recently formed "EBT Commission" and current deliberations on tracking/restricting purchases, photo ID proposals, and more.
*Status of the federal Unemployment Insurance extension; next steps when UI runs out
*Update on federal FFY2013 Budget and Farm Bill deliberations - what we need to do to defend SNAP, Child Nutrition and other anti-hunger programs
*Update on state FY2012 budget process and Coalition priorities for SNAP workers/IT improvements, state-funded WIC, MEFAP and Elder Nutrition (congregate meals)
*Local SNAP access issues
*DTA community trainings on SNAP and MAP 
*Update on direct certification for free meals of kids in SNAP and TANF households (Virtual Gateway Pilot)
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Stop demagoging our food safety net

Daily Hampshire Gazette
Andrew Morehouse
February 7, 2012

Former Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins made some eloquent points about hunger and food stamps in her recent column, "Beyond food stamp buzzwords" (Jan. 28). I, too, feel compelled to set the record straight so that the general public has a more complete picture of this critical issue at this juncture in our nation's history. Attacks on SNAP (the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) are rampant in some corners of the public discourse these days. Republican presidential candidates have blamed entitlement programs such as SNAP - and those Americans who receive benefits from them - for the country's deficit problem.

Newt Gingrich has even claimed that "more people are on food stamps today because of Obama's policies than ever in history."

It's true that the number of food stamp recipients has risen over the past few years, but the unemployment rate has also increased 110 percent since 2006. As millions of Americans find themselves out of work, those same Americans seek assistance from programs like SNAP to help meet their basic needs. The Census Bureau estimates that food stamps helped to keep 3.9 million people above the poverty line in 2010.

Equally misleading is Gingrich's characterization of SNAP as a race issue, with comments like, "I'm prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps." This statement reinforces a false perception that people of color are the primary recipients of SNAP benefits. The truth is that 49 percent of SNAP recipients are white, while blacks comprise 26 percent and Latinos 20 percent of recipients.

SNAP received more biased criticism in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Warren Kozak (Jan. 30), which declared hunger in America a myth. Kozak claims that federal government programs like SNAP waste billions of dollars providing food to people that are not really in need of help. Tell that to the 110,000 people in western Massachusetts alone - primarily children, elders, or the disabled - who wouldn't have a meal tonight without their SNAP benefits or food assistance from our region's emergency food network.

What Gingrich and Kozak don't seem to understand is that SNAP is not only a lifeline for millions of households facing hunger, it is also an economic stimulus. SNAP allows families to put food on their table, and provides food dollars that are spent locally. According to the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, SNAP generates approximately $406 million annually in total economic activity in western Massachusetts. SNAP doesn't cause recessions, it responds to them until the economy turns around by supporting vulnerable households while injecting much-needed revenue for local food businesses that employ thousands of residents in our communities.

The fact is that hunger is a very real problem in our country - and right here in Western Massachusetts. At least one in every eight residents of western Massachusetts relies on emergency food to avert hunger. More than 45,000 people seek food assistance each month in our region, a 25 percent increase compared just three years ago.

Here at the Food Bank, we believe that no one should have to go hungry. Without jobs that provide the necessary income to support households, SNAP and other government nutrition programs are essential to solving the hunger crisis facing our country. Without these programs, thousands more households in our region would find their cupboards empty on a regular basis.

Andrew Morehouse is executive director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in Hatfield.

 

And, in case you missed it, here's MLRI's letter to the editor in the Boston Globe (2/4/2012) along with Amy de la Cruz of Project Bread, hard at work:   (link no longer available)