Food Stamps and the Poverty War

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

At a Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project event recently, Northwestern associate professor of education and social policy, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach that SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] program is a big part of America’s safety net, which happens to have “deep holes” today due to the Great Recession. She noted “food insecurity is on the rise” and has had “a sharp increase” from 11% to 15% of the American population from before the Great Recession to today.

prof schanzenbachShe outlined the SNAP formula, or how SNAP calculates and allocates food stamp benefits to recipients and how cash can be combined with other benefits. Schanzenbach also suggested using a pilot program conducted by the USDA called “Healthy Incentives Pilot,” in which there were more incentives for SNAP recipients to buy healthy fruits and vegetables. For every dollar spent on specific fruits and vegetables, the feds gave out a 30 cent rebate for recipients.

As well, instead of today’s standard of receiving SNAP benefits for 3 months out of a year, she suggested increasing the limit to at least 6 months out of the year. The professor rationalized that today’s economy makes it essential to extend these benefits as employment is unstable.

At the Brookings event, James Ziliak, a microeconomics professor at the Universtiy of Kentucky, claimed that, despite the federal government’s half-century “war on poverty,”  today’s 15% poverty rate is “roughly where we were two decades ago” and child poverty is almost the same today as it was in the 1970s, which meant, “we haven’t made nearly as much progress in fighting poverty in the long run.” Nevertheless, he said that Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty was effective and “had a positive effect” because in its earliest years, “we saw this chronic malnutrition was gone.” He lamented that, “those in deep poverty…have increased over the past several years” and “those at the very bottom are still struggling.”


Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
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