Less than one week after President Obama signed an emergency $26 billion jobs bill that adversely will cut over $12 billion from the food stamp program, the Senate is proposing to make deeper cuts to the benevolent program to offset the anti-obesity initiative being spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama.
The $8 billion child nutrition bill, which has been termed the ‘Let’s Move’ Initiative, is purposed to expand eligibility for school meal programs, establish nutrition standards for all food sold in schools and provide a 6-cent increase for each school lunch to help cafeterias serve healthier meals. I don’t think that many people in America would disagree with these noble proposals. But, again, do you continue to rob Peter to pay Paul? Resoundingly, no!
In the midst of a historic victory where Congress passed The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to reverse the sentencing disparity relative to crack-cocaine, Congressional leadership continues to do an about-face with covert actions that reflect the hearts of the aloof and the indifferent. For those whose hearts on centered on the poor, downtrodden and the oppressed, this child nutrition bill will be a relatively big blow and the diametric opposite of progression toward social justice, if it is to be offset by deeper cuts to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program.
In concert, the recent cuts of $12 billion with the proposed additional cuts to the SNAP will result in unnecessary suffering and setbacks for a plethora of Americans, especially many African-Americans and single mothers who struggle day-by-day and who rely on such assistance. There are nearly 40 million Americans who receive federal assistance from the SNAP and even more individuals will be the benefactors of this program as the economy and unemployment remains relatively stagnant. According to a 2009 New York Times research article, “One in eight Americans and one in four children are using food stamps, and the program rate is growing at 20,000 people a day.” And, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “One in three food stamp households is headed by an African American. More than a third of food stamp benefits — over $10 billion per year — are issued to African-Americans.”
Most astute public policy experts know that federal assistance programs, such as the SNAP, embody wasteful elements. Without equivocation, improving the rate of childhood obesity around the country is extremely important. The prevalence of diabetes, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and other weight-related diseases is rising at an alarming rate and due attention is imperative. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “Between 16 and 33 percent of children in the United States are obese, which leads to significant annual costs.” But, making cuts to the SNAP to offset costs associated with the proposed child nutrition bill is not the logical action to implement.
Some critics and proponents who support the idea of making the cuts to the food stamp program are quick to point out that the rescissions will only bring the SNAP back to pre-stimulus levels. However, I would like to humbly submit that we are not living in a current time and space that mirrors a pre-stimulus economy. Our country presently has over 14.6 million unemployed individuals, a 9.5 percent unemployment rate and historic amounts of foreclosures that will likely exceed 1 million by the end of the year.
In a state of emergency, you don’t back away from love, service and social justice. It’s really disappointing to fathom that cuts will be made to such an important program for the poor and the invisible. I wholeheartedly support First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to reduce the rate of childhood obesity. I think that it is long overdue based on the fact that most overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults. But, it just doesn’t seem logical to have children eating a relatively nutritious meal at school and subsequently coming home to no meals because of food stamp cuts. Congress should really reconsider the source of offsets for this wonderful program to prevent the ‘Let’s Move’ initiative from traveling backwards.
Anthony Jerrod is a bestselling author, speaker, and public policy expert.