Advocacy for Social Justice Blog: Food Stamps and Caring for the Least of These

9/23/2013

Several times a week, Ms. Carter comes to my office because she wants to pray. Specifically, she wants to pray for me. She always begins, “Pastor R.G., it’s time you and I had a little talk with Jesus.” Ms. Carter is 79 years old. She worked for over 40 years as a cook in restaurants throughout Birmingham. She is raising two of her granddaughters – with the oldest now being the first person in the family to go to college. And she is on SNAP (better known as food stamps)

Last week, the House of Representatives voted to cut 40 billion dollars out of the SNAP budget. Alabama House members Robert Alderholt, Spencer Bachus, Mo Brooks, Martha Roby, and Mike Rogers all voted for these cuts. If the House budget goes into effect, it is estimated that 4 million people would lose their SNAP benefits in 2014 and an additional 3 million/year for the next decade. Recently Fox News aired their investigation on the “new face of food stamps” where they highlighted a 29 year old surfer who used food stamps to buy lobster, refused to work, and spent all of his time at the beach living off his “government assistance.” The point of the report was to show how we’ve become a “nanny state” where many in our society expect the government to take care of them so they can spend their days hanging out at the beach, eating lobster, chasing girls, and drinking pina coladas. While there are certainly people like the California surfer who take advantage of SNAP, he is not the face of food stamps. Ms. Carter is.

Over ½ of the recipients of SNAP are the most vulnerable in society – children and the elderly. In fact, 84% of all food stamp recipients are in a family with children, the elderly, or the disabled. Of course, Fox’s “The New Face of Food Stamps” is not the only misinformation about this program that until recently was funded with bipartisan support for many years. Here are some common myths about food stamps:

  • People on food stamps don’t work. Actually, 40% of recipients live in a house where someone works and most who don’t work are children or seniors.
     
  • SNAP has a high rate of fraud. Actually it has one of the lowest rates of fraud of any government program. Only 3.8% of SNAP cases are fraudulent according to the Government Accountability Office.
     
  • The church/charity should feed poor people. Not the government. Federal nutrition programs provide 23 times the amount of food to poor people as churches and other charitable organizations. To make up the difference of cutting out SNAP, every single church and non-profit in our country would have to multiply their feeding budget 23 times.

In Matthew 25, Jesus is clear that how we treat the “least of these” has eternal consequences. Nothing is more essential to the gospel than making sure the most vulnerable, especially children and the elderly, in our society have something to eat. I urge all United Methodists to contact your House members and let them know that you support SNAP, and (unless you are in Terri Sewell’s district) that you are deeply disturbed by their vote to take away food from the least of these. May we all remember that Jesus will judge us by how we take care of the most needy. Lord, have mercy.

R.G. Wilson-Lyons
rglyons@gmail.com
 

The above statistics as well as others on SNAP can be found at Bread for the World’s Fact Sheet and the USDA SNAP fact sheet:

http://www.bread.org/ol/2012/domestic-nutrition/pdf/snap-get-the-facts.pdf

http://blogs.usda.gov/2011/06/24/fact-vs-fiction-usda’s-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program/

 

The Advocacy for Social Justice Blog is produced by the North Alabama Conference Advocacy for Social Justice Team to help people think about justice issues through the lens of faith. It is intended to be a place where United Methodists can listen and learn from each other with mutual respect and understanding. (For the purpose of this blog see the the post “The work of justice is the work of the church”.) Please join the conversation by adding your comment below. If you have an idea for a blog topic or would like to make a submission to the Advocacy for Social Justice Blog please contact the Team Convenor Rev. R.G. Wilson-Lyons at rg.lyons@umcna.org.


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