Don’t take Food Stamps off the table for struggling families

2013-07-16T08:15:00Z Don’t take Food Stamps off the table for struggling familiesGuest column by JACKIE SEMMENS
July 16, 2013 8:15 am  • 

There’s nothing better than summer in Montana. Sweet Flathead cherries, fresh bread baked with Montana wheat, huckleberries and bison burgers on the grill. In Montana, we share our bounty. The main reason Montanans lock their doors in the summer? So their neighbors won’t drop off another bushel of zucchini or rhubarb.

But for the one in seven Montanans who have trouble keeping food on the table, this summer bounty is a dream, not a reality. A staggering one-third of Montanans are at risk of food insecurity. In rural parts of the state where jobs are hard to come by and incomes are not enough to cover basic needs, inability to afford enough groceries is even more common. In a state that prides itself on our agricultural bounty, no one should be going hungry.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) combats this problem. In January 2013, SNAP helped roughly 129,000 Montanans put food on their tables, including 54,000 children and 9,000 seniors.

SNAP does more than stave off hunger. SNAP benefits all Montanans, not just the ones enrolled in the program. Farmers do better when there are more grocery shoppers to buy their crops. Every $1 billion spent on food through SNAP creates close to 3,000 farm jobs. In a state where agriculture is a significant industry, this is not a number to be taken lightly. It only takes five SNAP dollars to generate nine dollars in community spending, making SNAP an effective investment in our local economy.

SNAP helps low-income individuals as they work to become financially stable. Half of all new participants stay on the program for less than 10 months. Employers can benefit too, as their employees who use SNAP are healthier and take fewer sick days. SNAP cuts the number of households with children living in extreme poverty (living on $2 or less per day, per person) roughly in half, and lifts millions of other individuals out of poverty. Kids do better in school when their bellies are full, helping to create our next generation of healthy, educated workers.

The House just voted down a Farm Bill which would have removed nearly 2 million people from SNAP and prevented over 200,000 children from receiving free school meals. In addition, it would have denied benefits to mothers of children as young as one who have lost their jobs and cannot find work. The fight to protect SNAP is not over. In future iterations of the bill, our representatives must protect this program that is so vital to thousands of Montanans.

When making decisions about the future of our country, our budget, and our economy, we need to ask ourselves: Is this good for our children? Does this protect our elderly? Will this help grow our economy? Does this reflect our Montana values? SNAP meets all those standards.

SNAP is a vital investment in struggling individuals, families and children across the state, and we all benefit when they can purchase food in their local grocery store. This summer, instead of taking food stamps off the table for thousands of Montanans, let’s choose to share our bounty.

Policy analyst Jackie Semmens of the Montana Budget and Policy Center writes from Helena.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(16) Comments

  1. lightninsam
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    lightninsam - July 20, 2013 10:51 am
    "The kenyan occupational government"---Could you explain that?
  2. lightninsam
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    lightninsam - July 20, 2013 10:50 am
    "101 million people are now on some form of food assistance."?---What's the source?
  3. lightninsam
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    lightninsam - July 20, 2013 10:47 am
    "According to a 2010 report released by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the average family receiving TANF benefits has 1.8 children, which is about the same as the national average. Half of the families receiving TANF benefits only have one child. In fact, the average size of families receiving welfare benefits has declined from 4.0 in 1969 to 2.4 in 2010. Also, some states, such as Delaware and Georgia, make it clear to those who sign up for TANF benefits that their benefits will not increase if they have additional children. Taken from the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services website:

    You will get information on family planning. Your check will not increase if you have a baby 10 months or more after you sign up for this program. [Emphasis added]

    A Government Accountability Office report (page 45), shows the amount of TANF benefits paid in each state for one to three children. Even in states where having additional children will result in a benefit increase, that increase is, in most cases, $100 a month or less."

  4. lightninsam
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    lightninsam - July 17, 2013 2:19 pm
    Sounds like they're not even trying to disguise it anymore.
  5. lightninsam
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    lightninsam - July 17, 2013 2:16 pm
    Sounds like you have a "final solution" for the poor folk "problem"...
  6. Long Duck Dong
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    Long Duck Dong - July 16, 2013 3:51 pm
    If you can't feed em' don't breed em'!
  7. Long Duck Dong
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    Long Duck Dong - July 16, 2013 3:35 pm
    "Clear out the gene pool"? So poverty is genetic? Do tell.

    Biologically no, mentally absolutely. "Grandma is on gov assistance, so is ma and pa, so is uncle bill and aunt Lucy. Jesse who lives in the trailer next to me, just had $10K worth work done to her trailer for free. Billy Bob in the trailer on the other side of me just got back from the food bank and stocked up his fridge........." On and on and on, one generation after the next. You are what you know and if everyone around you takes advantage of the system, why wouldn't you? It's normal for them, isn't everyone on food stamps?
  8. Josh
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    Josh - July 16, 2013 2:51 pm
    "Clear out the gene pool"? So poverty is genetic? Do tell.
  9. Long Duck Dong
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    Long Duck Dong - July 16, 2013 1:01 pm
    So true....
  10. Long Duck Dong
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    Long Duck Dong - July 16, 2013 1:01 pm
    I've worked in the low income sector for years, in their homes everyday. I have first hand experience with poverty stricken families and individuals. Don't tell me my comment is reactionary. I've lost complete faith in society.

    "Should children and disabled who are poor due to no fault of their own be forced to wear a "scarlet letter"?"
    No but their parents should and the parents should also be required to be on birth control.

    Everyone talks about the "cost of society". Great lets do something about it instead of perpetuating the problem. You want to be on Gov assistance? Bamm!! you're not aloud to breed. It's that easy. We can clear out the gene pool and make a smarter and stronger america.
  11. johnny Dollar
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    johnny Dollar - July 16, 2013 12:13 pm
    101 million people are now on some form of food assistance. That is not 1 out of 6, that is about 1 out of 4.

    There is alot of fraud that would be ELIMINATED if we STOP STOP STOP farm SUBSIDIES.

    There so called "Salt of the Earth" farmers have become a coven of harlots.
  12. Abonides
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    Abonides - July 16, 2013 12:05 pm
    That's funny, I remember another group of people who wanted to make a particular part of the population wear a symbol identifying themselves. Sad to see fascism disguising itself as conservatism.
  13. AL KIPF
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    AL KIPF - July 16, 2013 11:47 am
    The trough feeders in washington and helena need a permanent underclass voting bloc. Thus the buy it with the extorted money of those on the tax and debt plantation. The kenyan occupational government removed "limits on how long someone can stay on any social program".

    40 years ago 1 in 50 people were on food stamps, today 1 in 6 is on food stamps. Fundamental transformation indeed, progress...hardly. FORWARD
  14. Josh
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    Josh - July 16, 2013 11:43 am
    The average monthly SNAP benefit per person is $133.85, or less than $1.50 per person per meal. Since that doesn't even come close to the cost of a nutritious meal, what is left to "flaunt".

    SNAP does have time limits for able bodied adults. Only children and the disabled are exempt. Should children and disabled who are poor due to no fault of their own be forced to wear a "scarlet letter"?

    These comments are reactionary poor bashing from uninformed people who have obviously never struggled with food insecurity or poverty.

    Many of you will never be swayed by a moral argument in favor of helping the poor. So consider only raw self interest. Don't you think there is a cost to society and to individuals if a third of our communities live in poverty, lack access to nutritious food and medical care? Again I'm not asking you to think of anyone other than yourself. How do you benefit when so many of your neighbors are poor?
  15. Dr_Resonable
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    Dr_Resonable - July 16, 2013 10:12 am
    The problem with the Scarlet Letter is a majority of them are proud that they are receiving the benefits, and don't mind flaunting it.
  16. Long Duck Dong
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    Long Duck Dong - July 16, 2013 9:11 am
    "Half of all new participants stay on the program for less than 10 months."

    What about the other half? They stay on indefinitely? We have term limits for politicians, we should have limits on how long someone can stay on any social program. Food is not a basic human right and it should not be society's responsibility to feed the poor. We do have a moral responsibility to aid our fellow man, but having no time limits on social programs just perpetuates the problem.
    Another solution....remember the "Scarlet Letter"? Oh yeah....I said it.
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