US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Let's not take a bite out of the food stamp budget

By Caitlyn Schmid | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The highly debated government aid program that supplies food stamps has had its fair share of supporters and critics from both sides of the political spectrum. Some argue that food stamps are necessary for those who could not purchase food without assistance while others believe that they discourage people from changing their situation in favor of simply relying on government handouts to take care of them and supplying an excuse for some to not work. Former Florida Rep. Allen West even went so far as to refer to food stamps as a “comfortable hammock” for those who use them. (For more on this, read “Has the safety net for the poor become a ‘comfortable hammock’?”)

The program helped an estimated 47 million Americans last year in paying for groceries. Many of these people are children, the elderly, and the disabled. Statistics show that an increase in households using food stamps occurred between 2007 and 2012 because of a weak economy. People simply can’t afford food and therefore are forced to use government aid as a means to live and feed their families.

This past Wednesday, the House Agricultural Committee approved the legislation that would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by roughly $2.5 billion a year. The bill reached the Senate floor sometime yesterday afternoon.

Many people are getting involved to voice their opinions on the issue. To raise awareness of the need for food stamps, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) has accepted the SNAP Challenge to eat on a meager $3/day for the entire week. Although the national average per recipient for 2012 was around $4.45 a day, Murphy hopes to stop Congress from cutting from funds that SNAP cannot afford to lose.

Not only has this been a political debate, but it has turned into a heated biblical debate as well. Many have pointed to Matthew 25, arguing that Jesus taught that what we do for the least among us—the hungry, the strangers, the prisoners, the sick—we do for Christ himself. Those who oppose the program have brought up a biblical passage from 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that states, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.”

It is unfair to use that passage as an argument against SNAP because, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, 41 percent of SNAP households earned income from work in 2010. Another discrediting point is that 47 percent of SNAP recipients in 2010 were children under the age of 18. Therefore, they cannot all be expected to work if they are unable to do so under the law as minors.

Regardless of whether some who use food stamps are abusing the system, food is not a luxury. It is a basic human right. If we truly classify ourselves as followers of Christ, we should devote our time to helping those who can benefit from our aid and not make it harder for them to survive. We must care for each other, no questions asked.

Flickr photo cc by USDAgov