Inside Booster: Quigley decries recent food stamps cuts; vows to fight added cutbacks
The following article appeared in the December 4-10 issue of Inside Booster.
By: Bob Zuley
Congressman Mike Quigley (5th) vowed last week to continue fighting against additional cuts to the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Access Program (SNAP), more commonly referred to as food stamps.
As previously reported by this newspaper, beginning Nov. 1, nearly 48 million Americans received reduced monthly food assistance after a Congressionally mandated $5 billion reduction in funding. Additional funding cuts by the House of Representatives to the program in the farm aid bill may reach $40 billion, while a Senate version proposes a $5 billion reduction.
In a response to the 2008 recession, the Obama administration implemented a four-year increase in funding to the food stamp program in 2009 in a stimulus package designed to help strapped Americans maintain a semblance of food sufficiency, while also trying to jump start the economy.
About 83% of food stamp benefits go to households that include a child, a senior, or a disabled person. The average household on food stamps has a gross monthly income of about $744.
But the increasing number of people in need of food stamps, and corresponding rising federal expenditures, energized a Republican-led push for major cuts to the program, which has doubled in cost since 2008, and now amounts to some $80 billion annually.
White there is no doubt that there is much waste, corruption and fraud in the program, these cuts will still mean many legitimate needs of the hungry will go unmet.
Each dollar in food stamps benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity, according to Moody’s Analytics. If counted as income, food stamp benefits raised some four million people above the poverty line in 2012, according to the US Census Bureau and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
Local neighborhood food pantries throughout both Chicago and the 5th Congressional District are increasingly bearing the brunt of meeting the unmet need of hungry people.
“This Thanksgiving, while thousands of Illinois families gather to celebrate over an abundance of turkey and stuffing, thousands more will struggle to just put food on the table. That’s because millions of hardworking Americans who rely on SNAP to provide for their families during tough times had their benefits ct by an average of $36 per month,” said Quigley.
“That may to seem like much to some, but the average family on SNAP receives just $1.40 per meal. Think about it this way: a recent USA Today article estimates that the average Thanksgiving dinner costs nearly $50. Yet a family of four living on SNAP will have just $5.60 to spend on that meal.”
Quigley joined local families for an interactive Cooking Matters grocery store tour last week to see how nutrition education helps families stretch their federal nutrition benefits. Cooking Matters helps families to shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget, as part of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.
The food tour was hosted by EverThrive Illinois, formerly known as Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition. Quigley completed a $10 challenge, using smart shopping skills to purchase ingredients for a healthy meal or a family of four for less than $10.
“With SNAP cuts forcing those in need to do more with less, EverThrive and Cooking Matters are empowering families with the skills they need to stretch their budgets and provide healthy meals,” said Rep. Quigley. “In Congress, I will continue fighting for these families and oppose further SNAP cuts because when millions struggle to put food on the table, we should be strengthening the safety net, not cutting larger holes in it.”
In Illinois, where the economy may be the worst nation-wide, nearly half of all SNAP recipients are children. But food assistance also helps many seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. Illinois’ share of the cut will be $220 million impacting two million state residents.
According to the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD), the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau revealed that within the city limits, 22.5% of Chicago residents lived in poverty, or 596,975 people. Children were particularly hard hit. In Chicago, one-third of all children lived in poverty in 2010, totaling 206, 456 children, while 16.4% of older adults above 65 years of age lived below the poverty line.
Local neighborhood food banks are in need of food, goods, cash, or services to meet the need of preventing the neediest among us from going hungry. Commonly sought donations include unopened, unexpired cereal, canned tuna, oatmeal, chicken or vegetable broth, canned fruit or vegetables, easy prep meals (such as Rice-A-Roni, Hamburger Helper), pasta, rice, vegetable oil, pancake mix, and condiments.
In addition, personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies, household goods, and bath tissue and paper towels are welcome.
Persons seeking location of their local food pantry, either in need of food services or to donate, may call the Greater Chicago Food Depository at 773-247-3663. Callers will be asked their zip code and will be given the location of their appropriate pantry site.
Also, last week, Pope Francis authored his first papal mission statement denouncing the trickle-down economic theories and the global financial system that exclude the poor, urging instead that global leaders fight poverty.
“Money must serve, not rule,” said the Pontiff, saying economic policies are based on a survival of the fittest mentality, “where the powerful feed upon the powerless,” with no regard for ethics, the environment, or even God. The Pope called unfettered capitalism “tyranny.”
“Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not even a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” he asked.
In response to the Papal pronouncement, radio host Rush Limbaugh said of the pope, “This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.”
“In 2012, the top one-percent of earners in the US collected 19.3% of the country’s total household income – an all time high. The disparity is growing rapidly as well. Those incomes grew by 31.4% from 2009 to 2012, compared to just 0.4% for the remaining 99%,” wrote Dominic Barton, managing director of McKinsey and Co., in the Wall Street Journal.