Congresswoman Robin Kelly successfully voted yesterday to protect more than 2 million Illinois residents who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from a proposed $20 billion in cuts to the program, the nation’s most important anti-hunger initiative.
The House of Representatives voted 234 to 195 to defeat a Speaker John Boehner backed farm bill. Many Republicans rejected the bill because the cuts to SNAP did not go deep enough. Sixty-two Republicans, or more than a quarter of the caucus, voted with Democrats to defeat the bill.
Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) announced last week that she is participating in the "SNAP Challenge," to shine a light on the choices low-income Americans go through every single day for themselves and to support their families. Many Americans and American families are forced to make these food shopping choices on a limited budget, and the "SNAP Challenge" will help Rep. Robin Kelly feel the difficulties in avoiding hunger, affording nutritious foods, and staying healthy with too few resources.
The cuts were included in H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, or Farm Bill.
“The SNAP program is a means of survival for more than 2 million residents in Illinois. The proposed massive cuts would have taken food out of the mouths of our children and made it that much tougher for working families and seniors to meet their basic food needs,” Rep. Kelly said. “Today I voted to protect SNAP recipients, who already struggle to put food on the table, from being pushed even further into hunger. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass a Farm Bill that supports our farmers while also protecting the nation’s vital food safety net.”
Prior to the vote, Congresswoman Kelly, along with more than two dozen of her Democratic House colleagues, participated in the SNAP Challenge, in which members lived on just $4.50 per day – the average SNAP benefit – to draw attention to the potential cuts as well as to demonstrate the tight food budget of the typical SNAP recipient. Congresswoman Kelly spoke today on the House floor about the challenge and the need to protect SNAP funding.
In Illinois, 88 percent of households receiving SNAP have income below the poverty line, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Additionally, nearly half of those who receive SNAP benefits in Illinois are children, according to the Center.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository explains that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is a vital piece of the federal food and nutrition safety net, aiming to alleviate hunger by providing a means for low-income households to purchase food. Next week, however, Congress will consider a farm bill that includes a $20 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Rep. Robin Kelly went shopping in preparation for the "SNAP Challenge," and found that it's not easy planning meals on just $4.50 a day while trying to eat healthy. Here she is comparing prices on canned vegetables.
Rep. Robin Kelly (D, IL-02) was joined by fellow House Democrats Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D, IL-09), Rep. Barbara Lee (D, CA-13), Rep. Sander Levin (D, MI-09), Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D, NM-01), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D, WA-01), Rep. Mark Pocan (D, WI-2), Rep. John Carney (D, DE), Rep. Matthew Cartwright (D, PA-17), Rep. Joe Crowley (D, NY-14), Rep. John Conyers (D, MI-13), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D, OR-04), Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01), Rep. Theodore Deutch (D, FL-21), Rep. Keith Ellison (D, MN-05), Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D, NM-01), Rep. Hank Johnson (D, GA-04), Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC), Rep. Jared Huffman (D, CA-02), Rep. Daniel Kildee (D, MI-05), Rep. Ann Kuster (D, NH-02), Rep. James Langevin (D, RI-02), Rep. Doris Matsui (D, CA-06), Rep. Jim McGovern (D, MA-02), Rep. Richard Nolan (D, MN-08), Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D, TX-16), Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D, NJ-10), Rep. Marc Veasey (D, TX-33) and Rep. Melvin Watt (D, NC-12).
But not one Republican House member participated in the "SNAP Challenge."
Although, there is one Texas Republican House member that will dispute this claim that only Democrats took the "SNAP Challenge."
In a press release by 36th District Texas Rep. Steve Stockman (R, R-36) announced that this "SNAP Challenge" was a "publicity stunt" by the Democratic House members. Claiming that he has now "debunked" the "SNAP Challenge" of some 30 House Democrats, Rep. Stockman assigned his communications director and agriculture policy advisor, Donny Ferguson, to go hungry.
Donny Ferguson certainly made the best of taking the "SNAP Challenge."
“I wanted to personally experience the effects of the proposed cuts to food stamps. I didn’t plan ahead or buy strategically, I just saw the publicity stunt and made a snap decision to drive down the street and try it myself. I put my money where my mouth is, and the proposed food stamp cuts are still quite filling,” said Ferguson.
“We can cut the proposed benefits by an additional 12.4 percent and still be able to eat for a week,” said Ferguson. “Not only am I feeding myself for less than the SNAP Challenge, I will probably have food left over.”
What food is left over at the end of the week will be donated to a food bank, along with the $3.92 Ferguson had left over from the $31.50 SNAP Challenge figure.
The $3.92 left over should go a long way toward feeding the hungry at the local food bank, since Ferguson and his boss, Rep. Steve Stockman feel strongly that the poor are overeating.
This clash of parties, brings the issue into clear focus. Interesting that Rep. Stockman refused to take the "SNAP Challenge" himself, which speaks volumes of the differences between the Democrats and the Republicans in the House of Representatives.
The 30 House Democrats personally felt the pain of their constituents, whereas, this particular Republican ordered his paid staff member to feel his constituents pain and the Congressman quickly determined that there is no pain.
This cut by Congress would be devastating as more than 2 million Illinois residents rely on SNAP benefits and 88% of Illinois households receiving SNAP have income that is below the poverty line. There are nearly 46.2 million people across the country participating in SNAP, and in Cook County more than 820,000 individuals depend on SNAP to help put food on the table each month. The "SNAP Challenge" gives participants a view of what life can be like for millions of low-income Americans. Most participants take the Challenge for one week, living on about $5 per day worth of food – the average benefit.
Members of Congress, governors, state officials, journalists and other community leaders have taken the "SNAP Challenge" and have learned firsthand what it is like to try to make ends meet on the average SNAP benefit. Another Illinois Congresswoman, Jan Schakowsky, has also accepted the challenge.
Rep. Robin Kelly took the "SNAP Challenge," in light of a farm bill that will include a $20 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Rep. Kelly said that this "cut would be devastating as more than 2 million Illinois residents rely on SNAP benefits and 88% of Illinois households receiving SNAP have income that is below the poverty line. To protest this cut and call attention to the issue of food insecurity in America, I will be taking the SNAP Challenge."
Rep. Kelly went on to explain how the "SNAP Challenge" works. "For two days, beginning Thursday, I will be living on the average SNAP benefit of $4.50 per day or $1.50 per meal. I expect to learn a lot about the struggle of the average SNAP family during the challenge and I hope others will too. I also hope that you will be encouraged to help fight these cuts as well as the overall problem of hunger in America."
Rep. Kelly took the challenge for the entire seven days.
Here are a few facts:
ILLINOIS SNAP FACTS: Nearly half of those who receive SNAP benefits in Illinois are children. The SNAP program is an important tool in combating childhood hunger.
ILLINOIS SNAP FACTS: 39% of all SNAP participants in Illinois are in working families. The SNAP program is an important bridge for working families in making ends meet.
ILLINOIS SNAP FACTS: Moody’s Analytics estimates that in a weak economy, $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity. SNAP benefits pumped about $3.13 billion into Illinois’ economy in 2012. Cuts to the SNAP program would be harmful to Illinois' families and economy.
ILLINOIS SNAP FACTS: The average monthly SNAP benefit per household in Illinois is just $288. The vast majority of these households - 88% - have income below the poverty line (about $22,000 for a family of four). These families rely on SNAP to meet their basic food needs and would be devastated by the proposed $20 billion in cuts to the program.
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John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African American studies, published by The Elevator Group, Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books. John has volunteered for many political campaigns. John is an unpaid volunteer and social media advisor at Robin Kelly for Congress.