In 2016, the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) reported that 12,938 million children live in families that regularly don’t have enough food to eat.
But that number, as shocking as it is, will dramatically increase if the changes the U.S. House of Representatives has proposed to the rules governing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) are allowed to go into effect.
SNAP already requires that able-bodied adults without children must work. But the rules passed by the House last month would require that parents with school age children now must also work.
There are 86,964 families receiving SNAP in Tarrant County with children over the age of six. More than 50 percent of the parents in these families are not currently working the minimum required 20 hours a week. Unless they could find a job or job training, more than half of these Tarrant families could lose their food stamp benefit.
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The truth is, most SNAP recipients who can work are already working. But what about the parent who earns less than child care costs? What happens if your job doesn’t allow for sick leave, but you become sick for a week or more? What happens if your job schedule isn’t regular — what if you work 20 hours one week, 30 the next, and none the week after that?
What’s truly draconian is that the first time a parent fails to work enough to qualify, their food stamp benefits can be taken away for a year. But if they continue to not qualify, their food stamp benefits can be taken away for up to three years. Many of the children in these homes already don’t have enough to eat. What would happen to them if food stamps were also taken away for a year or more?
For parents to be strong enough to search for jobs, they need to eat. For children to learn at school, they need to eat. For people to be able to take care of their families and participate in our society, they need to eat. To sit by and allow our leaders to stop a benefit that enables parents to feed their families, is not only inhumane, it is contrary to our collective future prosperity.
Almost half — 44 percent — of SNAP recipients are children. It’s hard to imagine we would allow millions of American children to go hungry, but that will be the result if the House’s proposed changes to SNAP are allowed to go into effect.
Fortunately, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan bill that doesn’t include these harsh new requirements. The Senate and House bills will go to a joint conference committee that will come up with a final bill on which both chambers of Congress will vote.
Thirteen million children are already way too many children who don’t get enough to eat regularly. The changes in the House bill would dramatically increase that number. Tens of thousands of families in North Central Texas would have their food stamps take away. Are we going to allow food to be denied to children who are already in need?
We’re urging concerned citizens to contact your representatives in Congress, both in the Senate and in the House, and tell them that just as no child should be left behind, no child in this great nation of ours be left without sufficient food.
Rev. Craig C. Roshaven is a Fort Worth resident and volunteer with RESULTS, a movement of passionate, committed everyday people who use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty.