SNAP to it Food Stamp Challenge–Day Nine

By Sharron R. Blezard, June 9, 2010

Inquiring Minds Want to Know Edition

If you read yesterday’s very brief history of food stamps, you may have quite a few questions, at least if your mind works the way mine does. SNAP and its predecessor programs appear quite complicated, not unlike well-intentioned but tangled webs replete with back-scratching, prodigal portions of pork, and bizarre rules and formulas. Like I said, it’s complicated, and almost every person has an opinion about how the program works, doesn’t work, or should work.

Some folks would like to see the entire program scratched from the federal and state budgets. That might be about like dynamiting Hoover Dam. You’d have a real mess and a whole lot of destruction. Imagine hungry people rioting in the streets, more children dying, additional unemployment, the price of commodities going haywire, and farmers going bankrupt while $100,000+ combines rust in the field. What would happen to food prices? Do you think the HFCS lobby would just sit back and take it on the chin? Would agribusiness giants allow that much profit to simply fizzle out? If you think I am being overly dramatic, just imagine how we’d all feel if China called in every penny of U.S. debt.

When you hear someone glibly denouncing nutrition assistance programs encourage them to take a deep breath and ask a few hard questions.

  • Are you against helping the hungry? In almost all cases the answer is no. Sometimes people do want to apply their own definition to who is worthy to receive help.
  • Who stands to lose and who stands to gain? Who are the hidden players in this (for lack of a better word) game?
  • Do you have any better ideas? If so, encourage them to draft a proposal and take it to their legislators.
  • Would churches, synagogues, mosques, and non-profits be able to take up the slack? Are we doing all that we can do at this point?
  • What are you doing personally to help find a solution to the problem?
  • How do we untangle the web and still ensure that people don’t fall through the cracks?
  • Do you know what it’s like to be really hungry or to have to choose between feeding your family and paying the rent or the utilities?

The list could go on, and I hope you’ll add your questions to the list. I don’t have a lot of answers, but this inquiring mind has a lot of questions, and I do want to know more. I want to understand the root causes of hunger in America, and I really want to know how and why we are to the point that one in eight persons in our country has to have some sort of food assistance. How is it that we claim to be one of the greatest nations on earth and yet so many people go to bed hungry or without basic health care? Does Lazarus sit outside the gate in every city and town in America?

One person jokingly suggested that if Congress had to raise money for the military budget like school groups and girl scouts raise money through bake sales and cookie drives the picture might look considerably different. Yes, the issue is a complicated one, and how we spend money—be it government or personal funds—is controversial. I’m going to keep digging deeper over these last 20 days to see what I can find; maybe there will be some answers. I invite you to join the conversation and shed some light where you can.

State of the Pantry

While mom’s away the teens will play! The second package of bacon bit the dust while I was out, along with one Pampered Chef spatula—and my daughter and her friend said they didn’t turn the heat up any higher than medium. Tomorrow will be my first grocery expenditures in the month of June. I’ll need some fresh fruit and veggies for sure. I’ll be making the list in the morning. Today I had another networking lunch from my business budget (tortilla soup, half a turkey sandwich, and an apple at Panera), and I enjoyed healthy treats from Greenlife Grocery at our apartment complex meet and greet event. For a late supper I finished off the pasta. My daughter ate potato soup, milk, orange juice, and lots of bacon today. She is woefully deficient in the fruit and veggies category, unless you count the Edy’s coconut bar and orange fruit bar.

Website of the Day

Click here for “Childhood Hunger in America” a CBS news report.

About the Author

The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Blezard is an ELCA pastor currently rostered in the Lower Susquehanna Synod. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. See more posts by .

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