April 2015 U.S. Poverty Action

Use the Media to Protect SNAP

The House and Senate have passed their respective FY 2016 budget resolutions and will work to finalize a budget resolution in April. Both resolutions make deep cuts to anti-poverty programs but the House resolution takes specific aim at the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and puts cuts to SNAP on a “fast track”. Generating media this month is critical to protecting hungry families who receive SNAP. Congress is on recess the first two weeks of April, which gives you the opportunity to publicly remind them that cuts to SNAP are unpopular and unacceptable back home. Submit letters to the editor and op-eds to your local papers urging Congress to protect SNAP.

  1. Mention a recent story in the paper highlighting Congress, the budget, or SNAP.  These “hooks” increase the chances of your piece getting published.
  2. Inform readers that in 2013, more than 1 in 5 children in the U.S. were at risk of going to bed hungry every night (21 percent). Studies show that children who are regularly hungry suffer from weakened immune systems, slowed and abnormal growth, and anemia.
  3. Tell them SNAP is our first line of defense against hunger in America. The U.S. Census reports that SNAP lifted 4.8 million people out of poverty in 2013. Most of the beneficiaries of SNAP are children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. (Include SNAP information from your state and congressional district at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/ops/snap-community-characteristics).
  4. Explain that if SNAP were a corporate program, it would be lauded for its effectiveness with a 96 percent accuracy rate and only 1 percent fraud rate. Instead, Congress is trying to gut the program.
  5. Tell readers that the House has proposed deep cuts and structural changes to SNAP, which could lead to 11-12 million children and adults losing benefits.
  6. Urge your member of Congress by name to stand up for hungry children and families by opposing any budget that makes cuts or structural changes to SNAP.

Note: To find contact information for media outlets in your area, including telephone numbers and addresses, visit our Media Guide at http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/media/. In addition, see our Activist Toolkit pieces on writing a letter to the editor and generating an op-ed. Be sure to send your published piece to your members of Congress!

SNAP Faces Deep Cuts in the New House Budget

On March 25, the House passed its FY 2016 budget 228-199. The plan would cut SNAP by $125 billion over the next ten years, convert SNAP into a lump sum block grant to states (which would mean further cuts), and would use a legislative tool called budget reconciliation to fast track these cuts into law in 2015. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, if the cuts in the House budget were to become law, 11-12 million people could lose SNAP benefits. The House budget would also lead to  deep cuts to other programs, such as Medicaid, Head Start, and child care assistance. The Senate budget would also make drastic changes to the social safety net but fortunately it does not include the House’s cuts to SNAP.

SNAP is one of our most effective government programs. Yet, some lawmakers and media outlets use myths and falsities to generate opposition to the program. Let’s examine some of the most common ones.

Myth: Private charities can do it better. Currently, SNAP feeds over 45 million Americans per month. According to Bread for the World, only 1 in every 20 bags of food assistance comes from private charities; the rest comes from federal nutrition programs, mainly SNAP (see right).

Myth: SNAP spending has gotten out of control. It is true that SNAP spending is significantly higher than it was 15 years ago. However, this is mainly the result of the Great Recession, when millions of people lost their jobs and needed help – and SNAP did the job by responding to increased need. As the economy improves, SNAP spending goes down. In fact, SNAP costs are already starting to fall.

Myth: SNAP makes people dependent and less likely to work. The majority of SNAP recipients are children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Yet, according to the USDA, 42 percent of all SNAP participants live in households where someone is working and more than 80 percent of SNAP households had a job the year before or the year after receiving SNAP. In addition, the average length of time households are on SNAP is 8-10 months.

Myth: SNAP is rife with fraud and abuse. SNAP is one of the most effective and efficient programs in government. According to the U.S. Census, SNAP lifted 4.8 million people out of poverty in 2013. It currently serves over 45 million people per month. Yet it boasts one of the highest accuracy rates. According to USDA data, only 1 percent of SNAP benefits paid are attributable to fraud and payment errors were at an all-time low of 3.2 percent in 2013. This means that SNAP benefits are going to the right households in the right amount 96 percent of the time.

Magnify Your Voice with an Op-Ed or Other Coverage

Letters to the editor (LTEs) are a great way to raise awareness about protecting SNAP. However, op-eds give the issue even more prominence and attention. These pieces are longer than LTEs, giving the author room to elaborate about the value of SNAP, which helps better educate readers and lawmakers about and the need to strengthen the program, not cut it. We urge you to magnify your advocacy impact by submitting an op-ed this month about SNAP. For tips on op-eds, see our Activist Toolkit items Writing an Op-Ed on a RESULTS Issue. For those with relationships with local editorial writers or others in the media, share our new media brief with them to urge them to cover the issue in more depth. If you need help or coaching in writing an op-ed or other media outreach, please contact RESULTS Grassroots Manager for U.S. Poverty Campaigns Jos Linn ([email protected]