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Food Stamps


The whole idea of food stamps is to give people a leg up so they can become independently sustainable, not to keep them in such a low level of poverty that climbing out seems hopeless. And yet, for lawmakers in the poorest parts of the country, that seems to be exactly what they’re aiming for. Cutting food stamps in the poorest towns and cities makes no sense at all, and if cuts should happen anywhere, it should be in wealthier cities with more available opportunities.

Where It’s Happening

msnbc has found that Humphreys County in Mississippi, a county of just under 10,000, is the worst-off in the nation. There, a whopping two out of five people (41.2%) live in poverty, while a third (32.8%) don’t have access to the kind of food that would contribute to a healthy, active lifestyle (aka food insecurity). The latter figure is also the highest in the United States, and more than double the national average of 15.9%.

The data, gathered by Feeding America in their annual Map the Meal Gap report, also looked at food insecurity at how many children are affected, and a new “winner” emerged: Zavala County in Texas, with 40.8% of children not being properly nourished.

These two counties have more in common than simply being hotbeds of poverty and food insecurity: both of their Congress representatives are Democrats (Bennie Thompson – Humphreys County, Pete Gallego – Zavala County), and both voted in favor earlier this year to cut billions from food stamps.

The Reasoning Why

It should be noted that for the last two rounds of proposed cuts to food stamps in the Farm Bill, Thompson voted against them. However, this time around, he did vote for cuts, rationalizing it by saying in a statement, “[the Farm Bill] provides a safety net for farmers, while ensuring no Mississippian participating in [the food stamp program] will see a decrease in their benefits.”

What Thompson conveniently left out is that while it’s true recipients won’t see a cut in their food stamps, the raising of the Heat and Eat threshold does eliminate access to a host of other benefits, the likes of which are necessary to be able to scrape by.

Gallego, who did issue a statement to msnbc, said, “I didn’t come to Washington to be part of the problem. It was in the best interests of Zavala and other counties that we move forward with a farm bill and provide certainty to ranchers, farmers, food banks, and other providers.”

And what Gallego left out is those taken care of in the Farm Bill are not the ones most in need of food stamps. While the season is long gone to make a very tidy living as a farmer or rancher, what separates them from others included in the Farm Bill is assets. However poor or struggling farmers and ranchers may be, they always have the option of selling off land or equipment to better their lives. Most people in the SNAP program do not.

So until we see firmer and more direct action from elected representatives that will actually help the poor get on their feet, it’s nothing more than dog whistle politics.


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