Around 30,000 people in the Cincinnati area took part in a 1940s program, which agriculture secretary Claude Wickard called “an outstanding success.” This was an early version of food stamps, now referred to as SNAP.
When World War II started, unemployment was high. The food stamps program was a safety net deployed to help Americans. People in need could get help with buying groceries. The stores would benefit from the sales generated by the stamps, too.
When the need for food stamps drastically reduced as the war continued, the plan was suspended. The U.S. government did keep school lunch programs going throughout the war.
The idea was to help keep the nation strong, and that meant everyone. And it worked.
Recent years of high unemployment and low wages has caused many Americans to fall into hunger. There are now over 49 million Americans who struggle to put food on the table. This past winter’s extreme cold temperatures added to the food crisis. High heating bills meant less money families could put toward food.
The SNAP plan (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is meant to help Americans through these tough times.
Feeding America’s CEO, Bob Aiken, explains, “SNAP is an investment in our collective future, helping those who have fallen on hard times put food on the table and get back on their feet. More than 90 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes at or below the poverty line, and 76 percent of SNAP households include a senior, child, or disabled person.”
However, SNAP benefits were reduced nationwide on Nov. 1. More cuts followed with the recent passage in Congress of the Farm Bill. There could be even more cuts.
The SNAP benefits do not normally last a family the entire month, even before these cuts took place. Many people have to get additional help from food banks like the Freestore in Cincinnati.
With the reductions in SNAP the concern is that food banks will be under more pressure to make up the difference. However, foodbanks are already stretched thin. And what of stores that have been helped by SNAP sales during this struggling economy?
SNAP should be used when there is such great need. It makes sense that reductions in SNAP can occur once the need has subsided. Not when you have such high numbers of people in need of food assistance.
When Americans are struggling and hungry they need a helping hand to get back on their feet. Our SNAP program, food banks and school lunches serve that purpose. Congress needs to protect these initiatives to help keep America strong.
Originally published at the Cincinnati Enquirer.