About one in every eight Americans relies on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our nation’s flagship anti-hunger program.

With the recent proposal to cut $21 billion from SNAP, the current administration would be withdrawing critical support for 43 million Americans who are food insecure.

This budget cut undermines the government’s goal of moving individuals and families from SNAP back to the workforce.

Good luck finding that job on an empty stomach.

Cutting from SNAP could increase food insecurity and hunger, worsen health, and make it more difficult for SNAP recipients to seek jobs. Rather than slashing funding, we should be working to strengthen the program.

Though I am 100 percent with President Trump on the goal of saving money for America, SNAP is one of the worst places to slash funding- and for very marginal returns. In the fiscal year 2016, SNAP benefits cost $71 billion. For context, this represents only 8 percent of the current proposed military budget—a whopping $886 billion.

The US spends more on defense than the next nine countries… combined. While I agree that defending our country is important, the most important place to defend is our own backyard and the wellbeing of our citizens.

SNAP is a relatively low-cost program that helps us fight hunger and food insecurity.

A misconception is that SNAP serves people who could be working but won’t. In reality, SNAP supports mostly children, seniors, and those with disabilities which make up almost two-thirds of the participants. For the remaining working-age individuals, many of them are currently employed.

Another misconception about SNAP is that it serves mostly minorities and that any poor person can qualify. On the contrary, only U.S. citizens may apply, and most of SNAP recipients are actually low-income white Americans.

The administration also gives the impression that SNAP encourages dependence. For the majority of recipients, SNAP is supplemental rather than their only source of food. Dependence on SNAP is unrealistic given that the average SNAP participant receives about $126 a month, which translates to about $4.20 a day or just $1.40 per meal.

For households that include someone who is able to work, more than 82 percent have a job within a year of receiving SNAP. Most people are on the program for just between seven and nine months on average. The program provides critical support to help these Americans get back on their feet.

Given SNAP’s impact, it should stay and we can make it stronger. For example, SNAP could be leveraged as a gateway to connect participants with education and work training programs.

In addition, we could use SNAP as a gateway to incentivize fruits and vegetables and restrict sugary and other unhealthy products.

A study by Stanford professors at the School of Medicine showed that the latter significantly reduces obesity and diabetes. Since SNAP enrollment is associated with reduced health care spending among low-income American adults, all of us–not just SNAP participants–would benefit from the program curbing our rising healthcare cost.

Ultimately, SNAP gear us towards a greater working population while also significantly reducing health care costs.

Fortunately for us, we have a fellow Georgian, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, in a position to make a difference. However, he seems to be on the fence about this and needs our help. Last year, when asked about SNAP, Perdue said “It’s been a very important, effective program” at the House Agriculture Committee hearing.

“As far as I’m concerned we have no proposed changes. You don’t try to fix things that aren’t broken,” he said. This year, various influences have managed to persuade him to consider the food box idea, saying that people should give it a chance.

We can help Secretary Purdue remember his previous position. Comments and ideas can be submitted through the Federal Register, open for another three weeks. Given that the Georgia rate of poverty is 16 percent, chances are, our neighbors or someone we know could be one paycheck away from poverty.

SNAP is the helping hand from Uncle Sam to help them get back up. As caring Georgians, we must urge Secretary Purdue to strengthen SNAP and help our fellow Americans rise again.

Vy Tran is currently a student at Stanford University studying Community Health and Prevention Research. She aspires to become a physician and community health advocate, returning to serve her community in Georgia where she grew up.

 

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