Letter to President Trump and Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue: Withdraw your SNAP cuts

December 20, 2018
Press Release

Dear President Trump and Secretary Purdue:

 

On May 23, 2017, President Trump’s proposed FY18 budget was released.  As you may know, this budget proposal would have cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $193 Billion.[1]  This drastic 19 percent cut to SNAP would have resulted in 42 million people nationwide having no financial means to put healthy, nutritious food on the kitchen table.[2]  The 115th Republican-led Congress rejected this and passed H.R. 2 after almost two years of deliberation, which retained the work requirements as they are.  And President Trump, in August 2016 you had the nerve to ask Black Americans, “What the hell do you have to lose?”  Well, you have made it abundantly clear by this greatly flawed SNAP proposal, and numerous other instances of deviant behavior, both before and since your ascension into office, that Blacks, and other Americans, have a lot to lose.

But now you have proposed to deliberately and imprudently undermine a Congressional bill by issuing a proposed rule which falsely characterizes and impugns the motives of millions of Americans who rely on SNAP.  There stand you, two men who have benefited enormously from government largesse and funds throughout your entire lives, yet now deign to cast others in a negative light for doing the same thing.  The hypocrisy and lack of self-awareness is galling to say the least.

Hunger is often associated with developing countries, when in fact, one in seven Americans are food insecure and one in five Philadelphians are food insecure.  The USDA defines food insecurity as being: “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” [3]  Many veterans, senior citizens, children, working families, and college students depend on SNAP for stability and utter survival.   

Almost 2 million Pennsylvanians benefit from SNAP and with the majority of benefits going to those in need, it is critical that Title IV of the upcoming Farm Bill continue to keep these vulnerable populations in the forefront of discussions.  Earlier this year I attended the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg and, among other activities, participated in a roundtable with our constituents to better understand what they are thinking. 

The lessons we learned there are that agriculture remains the most important industry in our state, and that there is a direct connection between American agriculture and SNAP’s role in being our last line of defense in preventing hunger.  In spite of our best efforts, according to research from the Public Citizens for Children and Youth, 20 percent of Pennsylvania children suffer from food insecurity.

SNAP provides needed benefits to children, the elderly and disabled, and disaster victims.  It also reduces hunger, buttresses struggling families, and helps boost local economies because SNAP recipients tend to immediately spend their benefits, boosting consumer output. 

From Titusville to Philadelphia, many of our constituents are hard-working Americans, seeking to make a living, provide, and feed their families.  SNAP benefits can often be the difference between making ends meet or ending up on the short-side of a tight budget, desperately looking to feed families.  The 700,000 children in Pennsylvania who depend on SNAP are the future workforce of our great Commonwealth, and in the increased competition in the day and age of globalization, they deserve to have access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food. 

The families of whom I write, work 40 plus hours a week but often still lack the means to support and provide healthy meals for their families.[4]  Children who do not receive adequate nutrition are adversely affected physically, mentally, and emotionally, which can result in long-term, and debilitating deficiencies.

When summer arrives and schools are closed it is often the case that, school lunch, a child’s one and only meal option is eliminated.  In fact, in an NPR article, a young boy missed his school bus and a school superintendent drove the child to a convenience store to get him a single serving of a chicken ‘snack pack’.  The superintendent assumed the young boy would be happy that he would have something to eat, but instead the young boy was concerned whether the chicken ‘snack pack’ would be enough to share with his sister.[5]

Unfortunately, this story is not unique. There are thousands of stories where children rely on school lunches as their only meal of the day and worry whether there will be enough food to share with their siblings.

Your proposal’s cuts to SNAP are a disservice to our small businesses.  According to Brian Lang of the nonprofit The Food Trust, “implementing cuts to that extent are going to have stark consequences for retailers, especially in low-income communities.” [6]  42 million Americans and small business owners will be incredibly vulnerable if your callous proposal is administered into law, which I remind you, intentionally subverts the will of the Farm Bill just passed in Congress.[7]  

With so many Americans who lack consistent access to meals and quality food, how does the USDA plan to address food insecurity and protect SNAP?  Additionally, how does the USDA seek to remedy the cuts to the school lunch program, a basic necessity in the lives of children across the country?   I call on you to reconsider these harmful cuts, and work with my colleagues here in Congress to put veterans, children, and other vulnerable populations first. 

I assure you that the people of Pennsylvania, who control 20 crucial electoral votes, will not forget if these backdoor SNAP cuts are rammed into law—in part because I will make it my business to remind them.

Again, it is clear that under your leadership, we have a lot to lose.  I urge you to withdraw this harmful proposal.

 

Sincerely,

Dwight Evans

Member of Congress