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Food for Thought on SNAP Decision?

June 22, 2011

BOISE, Idaho - Proposals to slash funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would be devastating to the approximately 225,000 people in Idaho who depend on what were formerly known as food stamps to help feed their families, according to a petition drive involving 15 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 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."

Nearly 80 percent of Idaho'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, she says, have identified SNAP as a public program which returns the biggest bang for the buck, generating almost $2 in local economic activity for every federal dollar spent.

Religious, mental-health, senior and children's organizations in Idaho are among those which have signed the petition. The letter to Congress, and a list of organizations that signed it, are online at frac.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID