STATEMENTS: Food Stamp Assistance Cuts

Updated: 09/19/2013 4:00 PM By: Jennie Olson

Photo: MGN Online
Photo: MGN Online

The House is poised to vote on cutting nearly $4 billion a year from food stamp assistance, now used by 1 in 7 Americans. House Republican leaders were still working for support as they scheduled a vote on the measure for Thursday. Some GOP moderates questioned the 5 percent cut to the almost $80 billion-a-year program as Democrats united strongly against it.
Here are statements from Minnesota politicians about the legislation:

U.S. Rep Collin C. Peterson

U.S. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., said legislation expected to be considered by the House of Representatives this week will only make it harder to pass a new farm bill this Congress. H.R. 3102 cuts $40 billion from nutrition programs over 10 years.

“Instead of appointing farm bill conferees, the Republican Leadership has decided to move forward with an unnecessary and divisive nutrition bill. Even if this bill is defeated, as it should be, I worry the debate will eliminate any remaining goodwill needed to pass a farm bill.

“The Majority is again catering to the extremes of their party, pushing messaging bills to nowhere. It’s time to get serious. If they will just get out of our way, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees can work together and provide farmers, ranchers and consumers the certainty of a five-year farm bill.”

Communications Director for U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan:

Congressman Nolan strongly opposes and is working against the Republican plan to cut $40 billion, which he considers to be draconian and unnecessary. There's no way to know at this point what a final farm bill will look like. He, like most everyone else, believes we need a farm bill. But how he votes will depend on what the bill looks like. Hope this helps.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison:

“Food assistance for working families fulfills a promise we make to each other: if you fall on hard times, your neighbors, friends and fellow Americans will help you get a meal. Eighteen companies dodged $92 billion in taxes last year, which is more than double the cut proposed by Republicans. Let’s cut corporate waste, not meals for our nation’s children.”

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum:

For too many Minnesotans, a steady job no longer provides the guarantee of being able to always afford food for their family. One out of five children in the United States, including thousands in Minnesota, lives in a household struggling to put enough food on the table.

As many families continue to work toward recovery from one of the worst economic recessions, Congress must commit itself to helping struggling families make ends meet and providing a brighter, healthier future for their children.

The Supplemental Nutrition Access Program makes it possible for more than 45 million low-income families, people with disabilities and seniors to avoid hunger when times are tough. Simply put, SNAP helps our most vulnerable neighbors feed their children and themselves when they would otherwise run out of food before the next payday.

Working to eliminate hunger should be a bipartisan goal, but House Republicans have put SNAP on the fiscal chopping block. In July, Republicans tried to eliminate nutrition benefits for nearly 2 million Americans, including more than 30,000 Minnesotans, by cutting $20.5 billion from SNAP. That harmful attack failed to pass the House. Instead of finding a bipartisan solution to fight hunger, Republicans have decided to double down on increasing hunger.

On Monday, Agricultural Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) put forward a bill to cut an estimated $39 billion from SNAP over the next decade. This latest Republican attack could eliminate benefits for as many as 3.8 million Americans and force many more struggling families to stretch their limited budgets even further. It would also cut funding for SNAP Nutrition Education, which supports nutrition education and teaches healthy food choices.

SNAP Ed programs help Minnesotans stretch an average daily food budget of less than $4 to buy and prepare healthy meals. Hands-on cooking classes and interactive grocery store tours are offered to help individuals make smart, beneficial decisions. With less money to spend on groceries each month, the necessity of nutrition education becomes even more real.

Last month, I attended a Cooking Matters nutrition education class in St. Paul sponsored by University of Minnesota Extension and Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign. Since 2011, more than 1,600 Minnesota families have been empowered with the skills, knowledge and confidence to prepare nutritious, affordable meals. These extension classes are critical to ensure that households can continue putting healthy food on the table for their children. Studies demonstrate that children who get enough of the healthy food they need grow up facing fewer health problems, perform better in school, lead more productive lives and are less likely to struggle with hunger as adults. Nutrition education programs like Cooking Matters are essential to helping families gain the skills they need.

These GOP cuts will do nothing except increase hunger and poverty across America. Throughout the summer, I heard from faith leaders, community advocates, government officials and other Minnesotans deeply concerned by the Republican efforts to eliminate SNAP for struggling Americans. The local focus is on ending hunger. As Patricia Lull, executive director of the St. Paul Area Council of Churches, put it, "No more hungry neighbors!"

SNAP is the most powerful and effective anti-hunger program for children that exists. To reduce childhood hunger in Minnesota and across America, we must continue to invest in SNAP and nutrition education services.

The Republican plan will deny nutrition assistance to millions of Americans and cruelly increase hunger. Congress needs to defeat this cruel and immoral proposal. To keep all our families healthy, strong and hunger-free it is critical that Congress fully fund SNAP, not cut it.