Food stamps were rebranded as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) years ago, but some stubborn myths just won’t die -- and are now being used in an attempt to dismantle the program.
Known as CalFresh in California, SNAP puts food on the table for millions of families. Despite their importance, nutrition benefits are now under attack like never before.
Here are some common arguments used to undermine this successful program. Arm yourself with the facts about food stamps:
Myth: SNAP is a “hand out” that keeps people unemployed.
Reality: Many of the households receiving SNAP also earn a paycheck. In fact, SNAP helps keep people off general assistance by helping families make ends meet with low-wage jobs. Most new applicants use benefits for eight months or less.
SNAP bridges the gaps in family budgets caused by lost jobs, fewer hours or lower wages that are so common during a recession. People can’t be productive — in school, at work, or looking for work — if they are hungry and fearful about not having enough food to feed their families.
That said, most who receive SNAP benefits are not people we expect to work. Children, seniors and people with disabilities make up well over half the recipients.
Myth: It costs taxpayers too much.
Reality: The benefits of food stamps far outweigh their costs. Currently, paying for SNAP takes less than 1 cent of every federal budget dollar. On the other hand, every $5 of SNAP generates $9.20 in economic activity!
Myth: SNAP is growing our national debt.
Reality: SNAP is doing exactly what it is meant to in times of economic uncertainty: lessen poverty, and put food on people’s tables.
SNAP is also one of the fastest, most efficient forms of economic stimulus, because it helps maintain demand for food during economic slowdowns. Spending on the program will decline naturally as the economy improves.
Myth: SNAP is rife with fraud and abuse.
Reality: In 2010, the Government Accountability Office found that the national rate of food stamp fraud declined from about 3.8 cents per dollar of benefits in 1993 to a mere 1 cent per dollar today -- including underpayment.
Myth: Food banks will be able to step up and meet the need for emergency food.
Reality: Our Emergency Food Helpline sees a spike in calls and our member agencies see longer lines as the end of the month nears, and benefits run out. Meanwhile, many of our clients make just a little too much money to qualify for SNAP, yet still need food assistance to ensure they can pay the rent.
We've been lucky to have a generous community to help us step up and meet need for emergency food during the recession. Nutrition assistance programs like SNAP has helped make the burden manageable for families, and for food banks like ours.
Myth: We can’t stop the cuts.
Reality: Despite a vocal minority, a recent poll shows that 77% of voters oppose cutting SNAP to reduce government spending. We can protect this vital program — but we need your voice. Follow the Food Bank on Twitter as @ACCFB and sign up for action alerts for simple, quick and meaningful ways to make sure our legislators put people first.
A version of this article originally appeared in Hunger Advocacy News, our quarterly advocacy action newsletter.