Southeastern Religious Leaders Fight SNAP Food Aid Cuts

October 31, 2013

As a congressional conference committee began talks on cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — known in the past as food stamps — religious leaders from across the Southeast said Wednesday they’re worried about potential effects on the poor and working poor in a region with the country’s highest rates of poverty.

The debate is part of negotiations over a federal farm bill that includes the SNAP program. The Republican-led U.S. House wants to cut SNAP funding by $39.5 billion over 10 years, while the Democratic-controlled Senate holds the line at a $4 billion reduction. President Obama has said he would veto the larger amount.

The talks come as $11 billion in cuts resulting from the expiration of a 2009 federal-stimulus act kick in Friday — $36 per month for a family of four on full SNAP benefits.

Leaders of Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Jewish and Lutheran congregations from eight Southeastern states held a conference call to underline the start of negotiations, saying that too many Americans are going hungry already.

“As SNAP benefits are decreasing, we’re seeing an increase in individual needs in our area,” said Bishop Paul Leeland of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, representing 650 congregations. “(Our pastors) tell us that they are seeing an increase in the number of people at their food closets and clothing closets, and that the majority of these people are children and older adults.”

“Even before the recession, there were alarming rates of poverty in North Carolina,” said the Rev. Betty L. Meadows of the Presbyterian Church USA. “And now there’s just an increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots. Hunger is real. One in four children lives in poverty and is hungry.”

According to the Food Action and Research Center, the SNAP caseload in Florida has increased 130.5 percent over the past five years. More than one in four of the state’s children — 25.4 percent — live in poverty; the national child poverty rate is 22.6 percent.

Florida Congressman Steve Southerland, one of the House conferees, is spearheading a proposal that would require work for SNAP benefits, though the proposal exempts children, seniors and people with disabilities.

“For those vulnerable people, we want to make sure they’re protected and they’re cared for,” he said.

The Southerland amendment is currently part of the House bill and requires able-bodied adults to earn their benefits by working 20 hours a week or participating in a job training program.

Southerland is passionate about the importance of work and said he and his wife require their four daughters to get part-time jobs when they turn 15 years old.

“I’ve been deeply burdened that there’s so many people — and a segment of people in our population — that have never been introduced to the blessing of work,” Southerland said.

Responding to the religious leaders’ posture on SNAP cuts, he said his amendment is also based on scriptural concerns.

“All through scripture there is a requirement of individuals who are able-bodied — individuals who are able, not children, not disabled, not seniors — but individuals who are physically, mentally, psychologically able to work to participate in their own well-being,” Southerland said.

But Debra Susie, the executive director of Florida Impact, an advocacy group, said many SNAP recipients live in areas where there are no jobs or job-training slots.

“You can’t force people to go to work where there are no jobs,” she said. “And you cannot punish their children by removing food stamps if those jobs don’t exist.”

Virtually all the religious leaders on the call described their states’ efforts to help hungry children. Many routinely send backpacks home on weekends with students they suspect aren’t eating on days they’re not in school.

“If the children coming (to school) are hungry, they’re never going to learn,” said the Rev. Canon Geoff Taylor of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. “If they’re never going to learn, they’re never going to work and we just have a cascading problem. I think we need to address these things at their roots, and at the very root of that hierarchy of needs is food.”

Southerland on Tuesday said he was “optimistic” about the fate of the amendment he has championed.

But Jim Weill, president of the Food Action and Research Center, said Democrats in both chambers and in the White House oppose the measure strongly.

“So it may well be stripped out at some point,” Weill said. “On the other hand, the Republican leadership put Southerland on the conference committee, so he’s going to be in the room when the deals are cut. And they obviously put him there for a reason.”

By Margie Menzel, The News Service of Florida


19 Responses to “Southeastern Religious Leaders Fight SNAP Food Aid Cuts”

  1. JUSTSAYIN on November 2nd, 2013 2:03 pm

    If their fit enough to fight,their fit enough to work for their food!!

  2. Labeled Lazy on November 2nd, 2013 12:03 pm

    WM, did you consider that I may have used my computer at work while on my break? Or perhaps I might have used the comuter at the library (which is free). Or at a friend/family members house…

    I have a standard, flip trac phone ($20) and only use it for things like Doctors appointments, contacting my sons school, and my work to reach me (about 60 minutes a month). We did not opt for the “Obama phone” LifeLine phone.

    Believe it or not there are more than a FEW of us out here that are not taking anything we can get and trying for more. If you would stop thinking so narrowly you could get a broader picture of what is really going on.

  3. 429SCJ on November 2nd, 2013 6:22 am

    I think about the elderly and children.

    The fit can get out there and fight with the rest of us.

    Does this economic catastrophe make America a once had or a has been?

  4. Everett on November 2nd, 2013 2:40 am

    Gardens do help. I have one every year of some type. My family does also collectively. Two years ago we canned 132 quarts of snap beans, 40 quarts of tomatoes, 24 quarts of cucumbers and squash. 10 quarts of pears and peaches.There is work involved but its worth it and the food tastes better. Boiled peanuts vacuum sealed las about a year.

    We eat a lot of ground beef in stews and chili. Chicken is a treat and steak is like gold. Crock pot cooking in the fall and winter is cost effective as you can eat on it for several days. I pack may lunch at work daily with mostly leftovers. Pasta is great and tastes better the second or third day. A bag of rice and dried fruit and nuts go along way.

    I drive a used car. I live modestly and within my means. Once and awhile I will splurge and treat my self. I have no children because realistically I can’t afford them and would have to be dependent on others to help give them what they need. One day i hope at least one heir.

    I clip coupons and buy occasional bogo items if in the budge. I shop at the costs plus ten percent grocery store. Thrift and bargain centers get almost all of my clothing and shoe business.

    Not saying I don’t have money. I do because I live within my means. My parents taught me well.

  5. wm on November 2nd, 2013 12:00 am

    Labled Lazy,

    If you don’t have internet access — how did you view…and how did you reply… to this article??

    It takes a computer — and internet access — to do so… Either that, or an “Obama-phone” smart phone provided “free” at someone else’s expense.

  6. Labeled Lazy on November 1st, 2013 11:03 am

    Randy, really? I HAVE a job and a fairly decent paying one at that ($13/hr+). We get $290/mo in SNAP and the kids have medical. I don’t like it, but raising a family is failry costly with the current economy.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do not feel I am “entitled” to it, but for years I said I would rather see my tax money go to help those in need that were doing what they could to get by (or were disabled and had no choice). I still get annoyed when I see it going to a “baby-momma” that has 9 kids with 9 fathers who does not work (or has any desire too); feels they are entitled too $$$; and just sit around collecting welfare and child support checks in their free housing to support thier habits and put fuel in thier pimped rides and new buy $200 shoes (get mad if you want, I have SEEN IT).

    Don’t just label someone based upon the fact that they need help if you do not know thier situation. Yes, there are people out there that abuse the system, but it is not accross the board. If you could talk the fuel companies into dropping gas down to less than $2.00 a gallon again, or bring food items like milk back to $1.50 a gallon I would probably not even need to apply for help! When prices go up but your pay stays the same; sometimes you need to swallow your pride and ask for help to take care of your family!

    And NO, we do not have cable; satellite; a big screen tv; internet; go out to drinking or the clubs; buy lobster and steak; or drive a nicer car(s); or live outside our means. We stretch what we can to get by, and ingorant people that instantly label us as second hand citizens simply for recieving food stamps are just foolish.

    Next thing you know you will see people bashing applicants for Toys For Tots!

  7. David Huie Green on November 1st, 2013 9:16 am

    If it snows in some areas, that means it doesn’t snow in other areas.
    I have had collards covered with snow which came out better than ever, but I get the point.
    IF we wait for perfect days, we never plant, never tend, never gather.
    That’s okay, though, we can make others take care of us so we don’t have to.

    David for free basic food
    (and boiled peanuts, of course)

  8. wm on November 1st, 2013 8:42 am

    Rice and beans are inexpensive, have a long shelf life and provide plenty of calories and protien. A 50 pound bag of rice is $17.78 and a 41 pound pail of dried beans is $55 at Sams. That is a lot of meals for less than $75.

    If you want to eat — and feed your children — you can find a way.

    Give up the cell phones, cable/Satellite TV, internet, cigarettes, alcohol, and other non-essential luxuries — and you can eat…

  9. So sad on November 1st, 2013 7:57 am

    @Preda……really, simple minded people? I guess you are so much better than everyone else! And here we go again…..everybody with their opinions!

  10. Jane on November 1st, 2013 5:15 am

    It often snows in some of these areas and winter gardens are not always possible. I have long said we need more jobs and better jobs in these areas. But that will not help those disabled or too old to work.

  11. Bama on October 31st, 2013 7:29 pm

    Re:reality. It does not take much space to plant a family garden.. It is a simple process of canning or freezing (prefer canning)the products ,, I am a man that does it all while holding down a full time job.. No I may not live in the bars and restaurants because when canning season starts it’s non stop. But rest assure I don’t ask the Goverment for anything free. I believe. Teach a man to plant a garden. He wil benifet more than from a hand out

  12. Preda on October 31st, 2013 7:24 pm

    It would be nice to have some kind of simple class or something to show simple minded people how to grow basic things. I would plant stuff maybe learn how to keep bugs away and fertilizers maybe they could have something at the community centers in the north end.

  13. Concerned Tax Payer on October 31st, 2013 7:00 pm

    I agree that something needs to be done. Cutting the huge salaries for public officials and members of the senate, etc would be a great place to start.

    Secondly, maybe putting restrictions on the SNAP cards so you can’t buy candy or soft drinks and only certain types of food, grain, vegetables, fruit, etc they can afford to take the cut in benefits.

    I see and know first hand people that get these benefits and either sell the benefits for cash or buy loads of drinks, chips, cookies and all sorts of stuff that the kids (or parents for that matter) don’t need. I’ve also seen families that use them correctly, but eat better than me and mine and our family income is above the median household income listed for this area.

    Maybe there is some way of tracking the spending to see where the cuts actually need to be.

  14. william on October 31st, 2013 4:30 pm

    There is always trash that could be picked up along the roads.

  15. No Excuses on October 31st, 2013 3:41 pm

    @ reality check:

    Do you understand what a “community garden” is? They are not talking about a small, private garden in one’s backyard, although those are good too. They are talking about acres of crops that need tending and those who tend them get to take some of the produce home. These do exist in Molino – North Escambia did an article on a few of them a while back. I think it’s a GOOD IDEA! Do something to help yourselves rather than wait on Uncle Sam to feed you. It’s good for the self esteem also.

  16. Bama on October 31st, 2013 12:46 pm

    Plant a garden. Even a back yard garden can produce enough to feed a large family ,, I have enough put up to last 3 years. From a small garden and what family gave me out of theirs. All the way to my own jellies and preserves ,, No one should get free hand outs from my tax dollars

  17. Reality Check on October 31st, 2013 12:14 pm

    Your good idea assumes one has a plot of land to garden, the money to start a large enough project, and the time to wait before a harvest would be available. How about we as a country stop paying representatives and other public officials such high salaries, and also have them chip in for their own healthcare? That would be a start.

  18. good idea on October 31st, 2013 9:41 am

    This is a great time for community gardens to get up and going. If there aren’t any jobs or training available work in the garden to get food for your family. If more people would work to participate in their own well-being this country would be alot better off.

  19. randy on October 31st, 2013 7:29 am

    get a JOB

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