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Food for Thought on SNAP Decision?

June 20, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - Close to 40 organizations in Indiana are serving up a petition to Congress about food stamps. More than 850,000 depend on food stamps to help feed their families each month in Indiana, and the U.S. House has voted to cut funding by about 20 percent, as well as change the program, called SNAP, to a block-grant structure.

Ellen Vollinger, legal director for the Food Research and Action Center, says block grants come with pre-set funding limits and a loss of flexibility to respond to needs during rough economic times and natural disasters, something she says the program does so well now.

"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."

Vollinger says nearly 80 percent of Indiana SNAP recipients are households with children; the rest are mostly seniors and people with disabilities.

During House debate on the cuts came charges that the program was a form of government that had grown out of control, and couldn't be sustained. Vollinger says even though the food stamp program is government-run, she touts its effectiveness through 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."

She adds that many economists have identified SNAP as a public program that returns the biggest bang for the buck, generating almost two dollars in local economic activity for every federal dollar spent.

Religious, mental-health, senior, and children's organizations in Indiana are among those that have signed the petition.

A listing of organizations that signed the petition is at >a href="http://frac.org/pdf/snap_blockgrant_letter_june2011.pdf">frac.org

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - IN