What Congress and the Media Are Missing in the Food Stamp Debate

By:  Greg Kaufmann

To follow the Congressional debate about food stamp (SNAP) funding in the Farm Bill—and media coverage of that debate—you would think that the relevant issues are the deficit, rapists on food stampswaste and abuse, and defining our biblical obligation to the poor.

The only thing missing from that conversation is the state of hunger in America today and how we should respond to it.

“A good part of the food stamp debate in Congress and the media is not an evidence-based conversation, it’s fantasy-based,” says Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a nonprofit organization working to improve public policies to eradicate hunger in the US. 

Weill insists that there is plenty that we know about food stamps that Congress and the media are busy ignoring, including from the government’s own data: a January 2013 Institute of Medicine (IOM)/National Research Council (NRC) report clearly described the inadequacy of SNAP benefits for most people struggling with hunger.

“The whole thrust of the report is that this is not a benefit allotment that’s adequate for people in most real world circumstances,” says Weill.

Since the average daily benefit for a SNAP recipient is just $4.50 per day, this conclusion shouldn’t come as much of a shock.  But the authors—who comprised a blue ribbon panel charged with conducting a scientific analysis of benefit levels—did a good job breaking down exactly why the benefit allotment might come up so short. 

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