Every day brings new reports that Congress is further whittling away the social safety net for low-income households, the disabled, and the elderly. One of the programs at risk is SNAP, formerly food stamps, a program that helps 1.5 million low-income North Carolinians buy essential groceries each month for themselves and their families.
SNAP and other nutrition programs are part of the Farm Bill, up for renewal in 2018. The president’s budget proposes cutting SNAP by $193 million. Some members of Congress are now seeking to further slash benefits, change the structure, and add work requirements to this important program (most SNAP recipients who are able to work, do). What they fail to understand, however, is that SNAP in its current form is effective and efficient.
In North Carolina, SNAP predominantly aids households with children, seniors, and people with disabilities. And these benefits pay long-term dividends: in addition to reducing hunger, those who receive SNAP benefits in early childhood have a lower risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes as adults. SNAP is also associated with higher use of preventive care, which can contribute to lower health-care costs overall. Furthermore, SNAP pumped $2.2 billion into North Carolina’s economy last year alone. The program is also responsible for lifting hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians out of poverty. Not only does SNAP work – for those most in need and for the state’s economy at large – but its current structure allows the program to expand in times of greater need, such as the 2008 recession, and contract in times of economic prosperity.
Here in the Fourth Congressional District, thousands of households depend on SNAP benefits to help make ends meet. Even in Orange County, one of the wealthiest counties in the state, nearly 20 percent of our children are food insecure. Families and individuals need SNAP to meet basic nutritional needs.
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Eleven food policy councils across North Carolina, including our local Orange County Food Council, have joined with over 120 organizations to urge Congress to #protectSNAP. The towns of Hillsborough, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill passed resolutions urging our representatives to keep this program intact. This February, food councils and other participating organizations will ask Sen. Burr, Sen. Tillis, and Congressman Price to reject any proposals in the 2018 Farm Bill that cut funding to SNAP and other federal nutrition programs; shift costs to the states; or otherwise reduce benefits affecting low-income families, workers, children, the unemployed, or the elderly. We urge you to contact your representatives and ask them the same.
Chef Cyril Murphy and Hillsborough Town Board member Jenn Weaver are co-chairs of the Orange County Food Council.