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Dear Editor,

In light of recent conversation surrounding SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps) and those who benefit from it, United Way feels that it is important we raise our voice for those who cannot. President Trump has recently proposed a radical change to the nation’s SNAP program that threatens to cut the SNAP budget, an already modest aid to our most vulnerable citizens.

SNAP is one of the most effective poverty reduction programs in the country. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in 2016, the average monthly SNAP benefits for each household member in Tennessee was only $125, averaging out to $1.39 per person, per meal. An alltoo- real life example of just how modest SNAP’s benefits truly are, and something to think about next time you ring up at the grocery store. A cut in SNAP’s budget could be detrimental to those who depend on the program every month to help put food on the table. SNAP’s recipients are considered to be the most vulnerable citizens in our communities. According to the USDA in 2015, two-fifths of SNAP households were at or below half of the poverty line. The USDA also reports that among those who receive SNAP benefits, 65% do not work because they are children, elderly, or disabled but for those who can work, the majority do. In Tennessee alone SNAP helps to feed 1 in 3 children, 1 in 10 veterans, and nearly half of all adults with disabilities.

Furthermore, SNAP helps boost the economy. In The Food Assistance National Input-Output Multiplier (FANIOM) Model and Stimulus Effects of SNAP, researchers found that SNAP stimulates economic activity during an economic downturn. “An increase of $1 billion in SNAP expenditures is estimated to increase economic activity (GDP) by $1.79 billion. In other words, every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates as much as $9 of economic activity.” Cutting an already low SNAP budget is not only harmful for those who currently benefit from SNAP, but also for our state and local economy.

Shipping prepackaged food could prove to be unhealthy as well rob individuals of autonomy. There is no one-size-fits-all diet for everyone. FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) estimates that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under 18. A “cookie-cutter” approach to prepackaged food could not only prove unhealthy for those with food sensitivities, but possibly fatal to those with severe allergies. Moreover, sending prepackaged food each month removes freedom of choice. Multitudes of studies have found links between removal of autonomy and decrease in quality of life and mental health.

United Way of West Tennessee works directly and indirectly with the most vulnerable of our communities and we pride ourselves on fighting for the health, education, and financial stability of everyone in our community. SNAP benefits kept 262,000 people out of poverty in Tennessee, including 116,000 children between the years of 2009 and 2012. We fight for SNAP. We hope you will too.

Ashley Gooch United Way of West Tennessee

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