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VA Organizations Tell Congress: “Don’t Starve SNAP”

June 22, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. - Proposals to slash funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be devastating to the more than 700,000 people in Virginia who depend on what were formerly known as food stamps to help feed their families, according to a petition drive involving nearly 70 organizations across the state.

The U.S. House has voted to cut SNAP's funding by about 20 percent and change the program to a block-grant structure. Block grants come with preset funding limits, says Ellen Vollinger, legal director for the Food Research and Action Center, and are not as flexible to respond to needs during rough economic times and natural disasters - something she says the program does well in its current form.

"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 Virginia's SNAP recipients are households with children, Vollinger says, and the rest are mostly seniors and people with disabilities.

House debates on the cuts included charges that the program has grown out of control and can't be sustained. Even though SNAP is government-run, Vollinger 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."

Many economists have identified SNAP as a public program which returns the biggest bang for the buck, she says.

Religious, mental-health, senior and children's organizations in Virginia are among those which have signed the petition. The letter to Congress is online at frac.org.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA