On Nov. 1, sizable cuts were gouged into the federal food-stamp program (or, as it’s now called, SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which feeds 47.6 million people, or nearly one in six Americans. In the city, 1.9 million folks get the bulk of their Jell-O and Campbell’s Soup from stamps.
But news has spread among the poor, like leafy green vegetables, that it wasn’t heartless Republicans who triggered the cuts.
Rather, some of the food-stamp cash was snatched to pay for Michelle Obama’s pet project, Let’s Move. What?
It’s come to this. Some 76 million meals a year will vanish from this city — poof! — partly because the president diverted money from SNAP to the first lady’s signature program, part of her Let’s Move anti-obesity initiative — the bean-sprout-heavy, $4.5 billion Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
The rest of the $5 billion annual food-stamp cuts was taken when 2009 stimulus funds dried up. But with ObamaCare woes stealing the oxygen in Washington, there’s little urgency to replace dandelion greens served on recyclable trays with family-friendly buttered mashed potatoes.
Right now, the country’s poorest families of four are seeing food-stamp allotments cut from $668 a month to $632. It may not sound like much, but understand that $36 is enough to buy a truckload of Kool-Aid and ramen noodles. (Lose the noodles if the Food and Drug Administration succeeds in banning trans fats.)
How did this happen?
Hunger activists are livid. In fact, the cuts will bring on no less than civil unrest, according to the head of the Food Bank for New York City.
“If you look across the world, riots always begin typically the same way: when people can’t afford to eat food,” Margarette Purvis, Food Bank president and CEO, told Salon.com.
“We were told, you know, by the president . . . these cuts will not happen,” she said.
“Well, guess what. No one has restored that money.”
“It is bad policy to take away a child’s dinner and put it in his lunch,” Triada Stampas, director of government relations for the Food Bank, told me.
An administration source told me that the president wants to fund SNAP and healthy lunches in the latest budget, both of which he finds important. But getting it past Congress seems unlikely.
The great food grab began in 2010, when President Obama, with Michelle and US Department of Agriculture honchos at his side, signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. At the time, he admitted taking cash from one pocket to feed the other.
“Some of the funding [for the lunch program] comes from rolling back temporary increases in food-stamp benefits,” he said, starting in the fall of 2013.
“I’m committed to working with [Congress] to restore these funds in the future.”
It proved to be magical thinking.
Part of the problem is that the food-stamp program has grown like wildfire under Obama — to $80 billion last year, with a more than 70 percent increase in recipients just since 2008. Do they all need the help?
Hunger activists have lately rolled out hard-luck cases to the media, like grandmother Katherine McKinnon, who became a single mom of three after her daughter died.
McKinnon was last seen on CNN, walking the streets of New York hunting for cans to sell for a nickel apiece.
“No matter how people look at you, keep your head up,” she said.
Things will get even tighter. The Republican-controlled House wants to cut $39.9 billion over the next ten years from stamps under the farm bill now being negotiated, by eliminating fraud and asking able-bodied recipients to work or join jobs programs.
The Democrat-controlled Senate, which has asked for no such provisions, wants to cut $4.5 billion.
Maybe a good source for food money is the school-lunch program, as kids around the nation rise up against government-approved grub.
One school district’s kids said it “tastes like vomit.”
Ending obesity is a laudable goal. But cardboard lunches should never replace Christmas ham or Hanukkah chicken soup. Stop moving — and sit down.
By Andrea Peyser