Who Cares About Food Stamp Recipients?
New Yorkers know the faces of poverty. During a single morning’s commute, we encounter all too many familiar faces of hunger lining the concrete streets. The winter months, snow and sleet hindering our timely arrival to work and school, underscore the stark reality for the 60,000 homeless in New York City alone. We feel awkward, uncomfortable, compelled to do something, cognizant of the burden of a desperate situation.
Homelessness in New York City is visible, but the number of growing empty stomachs throughout the United States is not. 46.5 million Americans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka Food Stamps), according to the most recent government data, and that number will be further exacerbated by forthcoming rules.
According to the Washington-based think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, food stamp enrollment is expected to drop by 1 million next year, as a result of reinstated requirements that will mandate childless adults and the non-disabled to seek job training or work 20 hours per week after a three-month limit has been exceeded. Regardless of whether individuals exhaust every opportunity for employment, they will lose their food assistance benefits after three months if the requirements have not been met.
Access to nutrition should be a fundamental human right, yet Washington Republicans have for years made even the most basic opportunity for sustenance a privilege. Data indicates the individuals subject to the ‘three-month’ limit have average monthly incomes of 19 percent of the poverty line, receiving no other source of income support.
It is unarguable that America’s underserved communities have difficulty obtaining fresh produce and healthy alternatives to the toxic waste found in most grocery stores. Imposing unrealistic conditions (few states offer training or workforce programs fulfilling requirements) for SNAP recipients further places the burden on society’s most vulnerable members. A growing number of hungry families, children sent off to school on empty stomachs, will only serve to widen the inequality gap and continue to separate American communities. Where is the pragmatism in taking food from the mouths of the hungry? It undermines the cause and engenders severe hardships by administering a punishment without a crime. With the return of harsher rules for SNAP eligibility, the cycle of hardship and desperation endures while the hungry become hungrier.