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House makes cuts to food stamps in farm bill

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The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved $20 billion in cuts to food stamps — now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — over the next 10 years. The cuts are part of the farm bill being debated by the House. 

Advocates for the poor in Southern California are concerned about the impact that SNAP cuts will have on Southland families. On Monday, a coalition of local activists rallied in front of Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman’s office in Los Angeles calling on him to oppose the farm bill if it contains cuts to SNAP. 

Susie Shannon of the L.A. group Poverty Matters told KPCC that “parents will have to make a decision between paying rent and buying food.” This, she says, “impacts what kind of food” a family will buy. She worries that not only will kids be getting less food, “children will be getting less nutritious food.”

Across Southern California food bank workers say they are aready struggling to serve the many families that come in their doors. Shannon says cutting SNAP benefits will only increase pressure on food banks. “One month’s worth of food stamps last about two weeks,” Shannon said. After families use up food supplements for the month, they go to food banks. Yet, Shannon says, most food banks only allow families to come once a month. “So you have to run all over the city finding food.”

The House voted down an amendment by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) that would have eliminated the cuts. McGovern called the cuts “short sighted and cruel” and said that “at a time when millions of Americans are struggling with hunger,” this bill is going to “make hunger worse in America.” He said that 50 million people live with food insecurity issues, of which 17 million are children. 

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) reminded representatives that she is a mother and cited her own five children as she made the case. Pelosi asked “whether we as a nation are prepared to feed our own children?” Pelosi made an economic case for not cutting food stamps, citing the Congressional Budget Office saying that the “rate increase of SNAP benefits is one of the two best options to boost growth and jobs in a weak economy.”

Republicans argued that the food stamp program is rife with fraud, waste and abuse. Rep. Steve King (R- Iowa) said that the SNAP program amounted to an “expansion of the dependency class in America.” The bill would add layers of paperwork to the application process and cut the advertising budget for SNAP. King said the added paperwork would stop people from “gaming the system.”

In the farm bill that passed the Senate last week, the cuts to SNAP are $4.1 billion over the next decade. A conference committee between the two chambers will have to reconcile the difference.


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