Food Stamps Again A Vivid Symbol In Poverty Debate
“This bill is designed to give people a hand when they need it most,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said on the House floor just before lawmakers passed the bill. He said the legislation “will put people on the path to self-sufficiency and independence.” The White House threatened a veto, and Senate Democrats angrily criticized the level ofcuts. “The Senate will never pass such hateful, punitive legislation,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. For decades, Congress has combined farm programs withfoodstampsto garner urban votes for the rural measure. Butfoodstampshave complicated the process this year as House conservatives have called forcuts. The cost of thefoodstampprogram, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, has more than doubled since the Great Recession deepened in 2008. More than 47 million Americans, or 1 in 7, are using the program. The Senate passed a bill including bothfoodstampsand farm programs in June. Later that month, the House defeated a farm bill that included both thefoodand farm programs after conservatives said itsfoodstampcuts around $2 billion a year weren’t high enough. GOP leaders then split the farm programs from thefoodstampsand passed a farm-only bill in July. Conservatives crafted thefoodstampbill, saying highercutswould be easier to pass in a stand-alone bill. Getting the three bills into a House-Senate conference could be tricky under House rules. Republicans said Thursday that one more step is needed the House will have to hold a procedural vote to allow both the farm andfoodstampbills to go to conference. It is unclear if Republicans who pushed to split the two bills will oppose that effort.
Why is it taking so long? Although the jobless rate has dropped from its 2009 peak, it remains high, leaving a historically large number of people eligible for food stamps. Since the recession began, a bigger portion of people who are eligible have signed up for food stamps than in the past. Many people who enrolled during the worst days of the recession still qualify for SNAP cards, even if they are doing a little better now. For example, they may have gone from being laid off to working a low-paying or part-time job. The Congressional Budget Office predicts in about a decade the number of people using food stamps will drop to 34 million, or about 1 in every 10 people. Food and fraud Abuse was a worry from the start. The 1939 food stamp program was launched in May and by that October a retailer had been caught violating the rules. There’s been progress along the way, especially after the nationwide adoption of SNAP cards, which are harder to sell for cash than paper coupons were. The government says such “trafficking” in food stamps has fallen significantly over the past two decades, from about 4 cents on the dollar in 1993 to a penny per dollar in 2008. But many lawmakers say fraud is still costing taxpayers too much.
At Food-Filled Farm Aid, Music Isn’t Only Focus
A key component of Farm Aid concerts this year’s is taking place Saturday in Saratoga Springs is the food, which comes through Farm Aid’s Homegrown Concessions. It was started six years ago to create new markets for family farmers. Vendors, which include local food-service outlets, as well as national brands such as Chipotle and Amy’s Organic, must meet Farm Aid’s criteria for sourcing the ingredients in their food, from organic flour in the panini to free-ranging, antibiotic-free hogs on the barbecue grill. Even the cotton candy has a family farm origin, made from maple syrup produced in the Catskills. “Farm Aid’s mission is about family farmers, and economic opportunity for family farmers is a really big priority of ours,” said Glenda Yoder, associate director of Farm Aid. “We also support good farming practices and rewarding farmers for those practices. So our Homegrown criteria call for food that is sourced from family farms that meet an ecological standard, and that returns a fair price to the farmer.” Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and John Mellencamp lead the star-studded lineup this year, along with Jack Johnson, Carlene Carter, Toad the Wet Sprocket and about 10 other artists. The annual concert is the chief moneymaker for the Farm Aid organization Nelson co-founded in 1985 and leads as president. The beneficiaries of the organization’s year-round efforts are always featured prominently at the shows, with a Homegrown Village providing concert-goers a chance to meet local farmers, learn agrarian skills, and eat food from vendors who meet strict criteria set by Farm Aid. “We talk about saving the family farmer, but the fact is, it’s the family farmer who will save us all,” Nelson said at a media event before the gates opened at noon Saturday. Matthews gave a shout-out to activists wearing anti-fracking T-shirts at the media event, which was also open to many farmers, vendors and volunteers. “Don’t frack our farmlands,” Matthew said, to loud applause. Several anti-fracking groups from New York and Pennsylvania had a booth at the event, calling for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to continue the state’s moratorium on shale gas development that began in 2008. During a performance Saturday night, Pete Seeger modified a line of “This Land is Your Land,” declaring “New York was meant to be frack-free.” This year the village was set up on the expansive lawns of the state park surrounding the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
House Republicans vote to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program was ‘heartless’
Were looking at a hunger crisis unlike any weve seen in Food Banks 30-year history, said Margarette Purvis, president and CEO of Food Bank For New York City. The sheer meanness of the Republicans action becomes clear once you know that, nationally, nearly 48 million people 1.8 million in New York rely on SNAP. Over 92% of them are children, the elderly, disabled or working families below the poverty line. Coming at a time when one in five children (16 million) suffer hunger, a record-high, the bill would deprive millions of Americans from a proven lifeline to keeping food on the table. I find that idea repugnant and repulsive, said an irate Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx), who added that the cuts represented one of the cruelest visions of government that we have seen in generations. Repugnant, repulsive and needlessly cruel, these cuts would be disastrous for New York City. A study released Wednesday by the Food Research and Action Center revealed that nearly one in four households with children in New York cant afford enough food. In surveys conducted from 2008-2012, more than 23% of households with children in New York said there were times in the prior year when they did not have enough money to buy food. Some 14% of households without children experienced the same problem. For these people, economic recovery is one more meaningless slogan. There is never a good time for this kind of cuts, but this is absolutely the worst time, said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. Yet, to hear House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) speak is to think that he and his fellow Republicans were practically saving the nation.