Why would the House of Representatives approve a farm bill designed to provide farmers and the agriculture community with the funding they need without funding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) and other nutrition programs?
Cost savings spring to mind, but the approved farm-only bill contains no real reform and cuts less in subsidies than the bill passed by the Democratically controlled Senate.
Splitting the farm bill ignores a long history of bipartisan support and disrupts the natural alliance of those who produce our food and those who help ensure families have enough to eat. As one senator observed: "Breaking this coalition and severing ties between farm and table is a mistake that weakens the chances" of any farm bill being passed.
For decades, folks on both sides of the aisle have understood that ensuring families have enough to eat, especially in tough times, makes America stronger and gives kids the foundation to grow up healthy and ready for success. Recent polling shows seven in 10 voters oppose SNAP cuts.
In June, the House failed to pass a farm bill that would have ended SNAP eligibility for nearly 2 million people and impose draconian work requirements, despite the fact that more than half of SNAP households have at least one working adult. That rate is even higher - more than 60 percent - for families with children. So now the plan is to single out SNAP, making it easier to impose cuts? How does that follow?
Even in a recovering economy, millions of Americans face continued unemployment or persistently low wages. More than one in six struggle to afford enough food for themselves and their families. More than one in five children live in poverty. The numbers in Arizona are even more staggering: One in five struggle with hunger and poverty, including more than one in four children.
Current SNAP benefits average about $4.50 a day per person. You try living on that. It's not enough to buy nutritious foods or to get families through the entire month. But it's a start.
The farm bill debate is fueled by misperceptions, myths and outright lies about SNAP and its effectiveness. Here are the facts:
• SNAP helps eligible individuals who need it most: seniors, children, the disabled, low-income workers, veterans and low-paid enlisted active-duty military families.
• Half of all new SNAP participants receive benefits for just 10 months or less, and nearly 75 percent leave the program entirely after two years.
• Despite news reports and propaganda, SNAP has rigorous quality control and anti-fraud systems that result in a fraud rate of less than 1 percent, with the bulk of that attributed to retailers, not individual recipients.
The fact is, SNAP fights hunger and poverty efficiently and effectively. It improves health and makes a positive, long-lasting difference in millions of American lives, especially those of children.
Isn't that reason enough to protect it? Let your senator know the answer is a resounding "Yes."
Angie Rodgers is president and CEO of the Association of Arizona Food Banks. Cynthia Zwick is executive director of the Arizona Community Action Association.