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Hunger Relief Allies Tell Congress: “Don’t Starve SNAP”

June 16, 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. - More than 2,500 organizations across the nation - including more than 100 from Connecticut - say proposals to slash funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and convert it to a block-grant program would be devastating to millions who depend on what were formerly known as food stamps.

Thousands have joined a letter-writing campaign to Congress, explaining how the change would put recipients at risk of going hungry or being dropped from the program altogether, says Ellen Vollinger, legal director for the Food Resource and Action Center.

"The food-stamp program is the nation's first defense against hunger. It's very important to about 44 million people across the country."

Nearly 80 percent of SNAP recipients are households with children, Vollinger says, and the rest are mostly seniors and people with disabilities. At last count, almost 400,000 Nutmeggers relied on the program to feed their families.

The current SNAP program is flexible enough to respond to changes in need brought on by unemployment, underemployment or natural disasters which recently have ripped through several states, Vollinger says.

"The program structure is such, as an entitlement, that it can kick in very quickly and provide temporary help and get benefits flowing to those families, to help them recover and to help their communities economically recover."

Even though the food-stamp program is government-run, Vollinger says, it has been made more efficient with private-sector partnerships.

"It uses regular retail outlets. Government hasn't had to set up its own set of government stores or government-operated trucking. It's very efficient, in the sense of being able to partner with the regular retailer community."

Vollinger says many economists have identified SNAP as a public program which returns the biggest bang for the buck.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT