For every sensational story of food-stamp fraud or abuse, there are thousands more of people who depend on them to feed themselves and their families. That's especially true now, with one in seven Americans -- a record 47 million people -- receiving help from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That number is double what it was a decade ago.
Food benefits have become a popular target, with Congress cutting benefits late last year across the board and in more than a dozen states again this year. But fundamental changes in the economy mean that more Americans need the benefits than ever before, even though the unemployment rate is slowly dropping.
The recession we're emerging from, and the corresponding loss of well-paying jobs, has filled the program with people who never expected to be there. Americans should understand the value food assistance brings and resist the call for further cuts in the program. The real story is how food stamps help needy families and individuals navigate tough times.
Recent cuts and reforms have altered the program in small but important ways. All recipients saw a 5 percent cut in benefits in November that averaged about $11 for single households and $36 for families of four.
For decades, food assistance has mirrored the unemployment rate, falling in good times and rising when the economy tanks. While economists expect the numbers of recipients to fall as the economy improves, there are fundamental changes to the face of food stamps that should concern Americans. The reality is food stamps help families and individuals.
The Cincinnati Enquirer