Congress and the Trump administration are discussing broad cuts for many different areas and programs – including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, also known as food stamps.
A number of Hoosiers insist there can be no cuts to the program and are working to make sure that message is heard.
Dave Miner, a self-described hunger activist and relief advocate, went on a hunger strike. He says more than one out of every 10 Hoosiers is food insecure. At an Indianapolis food pantry he points out the dozens of volunteers sorting food.
“We’re standing here among huge piles of food,” Miner says. “But the striking thing is not only the work they do, but that this represents about 3 percent of the food provided in Marion County. It’s vital and important, but small in comparison to what SNAP provides.”
SNAP provided direct food assistance to nearly 750,000 Hoosiers last year. And Miner says no part of the hunger puzzle can go missing.
“The problem is so big that we need everybody,” Miner says. “We need private and public, we need faith-based, we need nonprofits. The federal meals run between 80 and 90 percent total, so they are essential.”
His hunger strike lasted 16 days, about 50 meals to represent the 50 million meals lost for Hoosiers if there are SNAP cuts.
But those cuts aren’t a done deal. Jessica Fraser with the Indiana Institute for Working Families follows the issue closely for the people she serves.
“Families who are on SNAP do work,” Fraser says. “It also supports a lot of children and senior citizens.”
In Indiana, 77 percent of SNAP families have at least one member who is employed. Yet many of those families still live below the poverty line.
Between President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, Senate resolutions, larger tax reform and the farm bill, the talk of SNAP cuts varies greatly. But Fraser says the House’s proposed $150 billion in cuts over 10 years is striking.
“The total number in the federal budget is the ginormous, multi, hundred billion dollar amount but the average amount of food that a person gets each month is $117 worth of food,” says Fraser.
Emily Weikert Byrant is the executive director for Feeding Indiana’s Hungry. She recently traveled to Washington and met with members of Congress. She told them that every five dollars in SNAP benefits generates nine dollars in economic impact.
“Our unemployment numbers in Indiana look good, but it’s not the folks who are unemployed who still need help.”
“It’s not cash assistance, it’s not savings, it’s not going into a bank account, it’s a benefit designed to only purchase food,” Weikert Byrant says.
She’s heard the argument that since the number of SNAP recipients is down, cuts could be made. But she points out not everyone has shared in economic recovery.
“Our unemployment numbers in Indiana look good but it’s not the folks who are unemployed who still need help,” she says. “The economic recovery comes last to folks in lower income brackets.”
Weikert Bryant says the issue of hunger is directly linked to all aspects of wellbeing.
“To make sure kids are going to be attentive in school, to make sure that adults are going to be a vital part of the work force and for folks that may have medical issues, or seniors,” says Weikert Bryant.
There should be a clearer picture of what SNAP cuts might look like by the end of the year.