08 November 2013

A very easy way to feed the hungry

On Nov. 1, an automatic cut to the federal food stamp program (AKA SNAP) took place.  Over the next year, more than $5 billion will be trimmed from the $80 billion annual program as a result of the end of an extension to a 2009 stimulus bill. 

Roughly 14% of all U.S. households receive food aid from SNAP or around 47 million people. Though I’m now familiar with those numbers, it is still shocking to me that in what most of us consider the best country in the world and certainly one of the most prosperous, that that many women and men do not make enough money to feed their families. That’s a staggering number of children who are hungry if they lose their assistance. 

The cuts will manifest themselves in a way that translates to the loss of 16 meals a month for the average family of 3, according to the USDA — or close to two days worth of meals. 

Of course, as Congress continues to debate the farm bill, more cuts could come should a provision of the bill that calls for $39 billions in cuts over 10 years pass. As I’ve written about before, that bill would actually take around 3.8 million people off SNAP, as opposed to slicing how much they receive, according to The Washington Post. 

Part of the plan would limit childless, able-bodied adults to three months of food stamps unless the adult is working at least 20 hours per week or in a job-training program (many of which the government has decimated). 

I wonder about the heart of a nation that tells its people that if you can’t find a job you don’t deserve to eat. And despite the fact that the recovery continues to be slow, it is your fault if you can’t find a job.  

Those who want to cut the program are always quick to point to fraud, but according to USDA, there’s a fraud rate of only about 1.3%. While there should be zero tolerance for fraud of any kind when it comes to SNAP, that’s hardly a number that should send off warning bells. 

When I was at the grocery store today, right by the entrance there was a table set up with a number of paper grocery bags on it. They were filled with food and stapled shut. For $10, shoppers could pick up a bag, turn it in and pay for it when they checked out, and the contents of the bag (felt like a lot of canned goods to me), will be distributed to food banks in the area. 

I tried to find something online about the program to see how long it was running- I hope for all of November- but I couldn’t find anything. It’s at participating Safeway-owned stores. 

What an easy way to help someone else. Just plop the bag in your cart as you go about doing your shopping, pay for it when at check out and Safeway will take the bag off your hands and get the food where it’s needed most. There’s no check to write, no forms to fill out, no cans to drop off. Easiest $10 you’ll ever donate. 

Nov. 8: Safeway’s Feed the Hungry program

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