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September 2013 U.S. Poverty Action

Mobilizing Others to Protect and Strengthen SNAP (Food Stamps)

This month the House of Representatives vote on a bill to cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) over the next ten years, forcing 4-6 million people off the program. RESULTS volunteers have done a fabulous job this year pushing lawmakers to protect and strengthen SNAP and other key anti-poverty programs in 55 face-to-face lobby meetings already this year and in 75 published media pieces, but this month it is critical to organize a groundswell of people speaking out against slashing draconian budget cuts. 

TAKE ACTION: Get at Least Five Others Joining You in Action to Protect SNAP

  1. Create a list of 10 or more people you’ll target. Not everyone will join you in taking action, so you’ll need to ask at least twice as many as your goal. Be strategic – a small group of moderate Republicans will decide the fate of this legislation. Focus on people you know in CA, MI, MN, NV, NJ, NY, OH, and PA. If you have questions about who the key targets are, contact Meredith Dodson in the RESULTS office.

  2. Engage people directly whenever possible. Your friends, family members, work colleagues, and others are much more likely to do something if you tell them directly why it matters and why you thought they’d be concerned about cuts to SNAP. In-person conversations are best, and consider a personal call or e-mail if you cannot talk to them directly.

  3. Make it easy for others to join you in calling Congress. On Tuesday, September 17, RESULTS is organizing a National Call-In Day to generate thousands of calls to Washington. Use our printable call-in/e-mail flyer or forward our action alert (we’ll blast out a short email that morning), give them this toll-free number: (866) 456-8824, which will connect them to the Capitol Switchboard and then directly to their members of Congress based on their zip code, and a sample script, such as:  

 My name is ______________ and I am a constituent calling from ________________. I am calling about the House bill that would cut SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, by $40 billion. When nearly 50 million Americans are food insecure, I find it unconscionable that Congress would make the problem worse by cutting SNAP. The House SNAP bill would force nearly 4-6 million people off the program and deny 210,000 children access to free school lunches. This is fundamentally wrong. Please tell Rep. _________________ to vote NO on the House SNAP bill and instead work to end hunger in America by protecting and strengthening SNAP in any final Farm Bill or other legislation. Will you give him/her that message today? 

  1. If they cannot call, urge them to e-mail Congress instead. Our website has an e-mail they can tailor at: http://tinyurl.com/SNAPalert.

  2. Go to where people are congregating to generate additional letters. Many RESULTS groups are tabling at community events, religious services, college campuses, etc. We urge you to reach out to veterans, churches, senior groups, and local businesses, since they often have the ear of Congress. Print off copies of our flyer and bring RESULTS brochures.

  3. Make sure the voices of true experts – those living in poverty – are heard. Urge a community leader to attend an upcoming congressional meeting you have scheduled, or work with coalition partners to make sure those directly impacted by SNAP cuts are speaking out.

  4. Amplify your work using social media. Post a short message like, “I’m outraged that Congress wants to cut SNAP (Food Stamps) for 4-6 million Americans. Join me in taking action: http://tinyurl.com/SNAPalert.” and ask your friends to let you know they’ve taken action.  

What’s At Stake: Nutrition Assistance for 4-6 Million Struggling Americans

Earlier this month the US Department of Agriculture released their 2012 food insecurity data, which highlights the importance of protecting and strengthening SNAP given that millions of families are struggling to put food on the table. A few key statistics:

  • 17.6 million households were food insecure in 2012 (about 49 million people); this rate has remained fairly consistent since 2008
  • About 7 million of food insecure households had very low food security, meaning that people were skipping meals or taking other steps to reduce what they ate because they didn’t have enough resources
  • 21.6 percent of children lived in food insecure households, with about half of them experiencing food insecurity themselves. Studies show that children who are regularly hungry struggle in school and suffer from weakened immune systems, slowed and abnormal growth, and anemia.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the first line of defense against hunger in America. The U.S. Census reports that SNAP lifted 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2011. SNAP also boasts one of the highest accuracy rates and lowest fraud rates. Unfortunately, both the House and Senate are proposing cuts to this vital program.  

Policy decisions in Washington have a real impact on families back home. As our September 2013 RESULTS National Conference Call guest Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3) outlined, these cuts would mean:

  • Cut to Categorical Eligibility = 2 million people off SNAP + 210,000 low-income children lose free meals at school
  • Cut to “Heat and Eat” programs = 850,000 households see benefits drop by an average of $90/month
  • Cut impacting able-bodied working adults without dependents (ADAWDs) = 2-4 million 18-50 year olds off SNAP(they earn an average $2,500 per year)
  • Imposes drug testing, as well as work requirements on all participants who can work; states can keep half the money saved for kicking people off SNAP
  • These cuts come on top of an automatic cut to SNAP that will go into effect on November 1. This cut comes from the termination of the boost in benefits made under the 2009 Recovery Act (ARRA). This cut impacts every SNAP family (an average cut of $36/mo for a family of four).

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has posted the State-by-State Impact of Proposed SNAP Cuts. To understand the true impact, consider that the meals lost from the ARRA cuts and the proposed farm bill cuts would exceed the total annual meal distribution by Feeding America food banks (the nation’s largest food bank network) around the country. These cuts will have a dramatic impact on millions of families across the country. We need lots of people – our friends, neighbors, family members, and those directly impacted by these cuts – speaking out to Congress this month!