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New Poll: Now is Not the Time to Cut Food Stamps

September 7, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas - Texas ranks third-worst nationally among states when it comes to the rate of households struggling against hunger, according to data released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The new figures come just as national polling reveals broad support for maintaining "SNAP," the federal food-stamp program, which will be slashed if current versions of the Farm Bill survive in Congress.

Proponents of the cuts say they want to reduce the deficit, but Rachel Cooper, senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, says now's not the time.

"The families who use those funds run straight to the grocery store to purchase the food that they need, and that puts money into the pockets of Texas grocery stores, Texas farmers, and Texas's economy."

Because it has traditionally been considered stimulative, nutrition assistance has received bipartisan support throughout the 48-year history of food stamps.

Nearly 19 percent of Texas families experienced food insecurity in the past few years, as compared to the national rate of 15 percent. Cooper says while assistance for purchasing approved food items - $134 per month on average - isn't typically enough to prevent someone from going hungry, it can make a huge difference.

"The program has done exactly what it was supposed to do: kick in when times were bad. And as the economy improves, the food-stamp rolls will fall. It's a temporary bridge for most families."

Texas Food Bank Network CEO Celia Cole says charities typically see a spike in food requests near the end of each month as needy families exhaust any government food assistance they might have received. She says the proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which could be as high as $16 billion, would have a devastating impact on Texas, potentially leaving 300,000 people at risk of going hungry.

"And the food banks wouldn't be able to make up the difference. Their resources are already strained. And we're not set up to make up for the public response to hunger. We have to have a sustained public investment, particularly during these tough economic times."

The new poll was conducted for the Food Research and Action Center. It found that 75 percent of Americans believe cutting food assistance is not a good way to reduce spending in today's economy, and 55 percent said federal spending on hunger should go up.

See polling results at bit.ly/Q6Ziym. See the USDA report at 1.usa.gov/Q7Zxna.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX