Food Stamps Again A Vivid Symbol In Poverty Debate

With food allergies on the rise, lunch gets complicated for ASD

— Paul Thornton, letters editor Altadena resident J.H. Benson questions the GOP ‘s morality: “House Republicans are badly in need of a moral compass. Their hypocrisy is only surpassed by their cruelty. “The GOP says that the 4 million Americans who will be kicked off SNAP are capable of helping themselves. I hope that our very capable farmers aren’t being subsidized while this assistance to the poor is deemed too expensive.” Long Beach resident Matthew Black points out more pressing spending concerns: “The GOP has truly hit a new low. After increasing annual defense spending by more than $300 billion since 2001, spending $2 trillion on unnecessary wars and passing $1.7 trillion in tax cuts between 2001 and 2003 that primarily went to the wealthiest Americans, Republicans need to save $40 billion on food stamps. “Way to go. Why do I feel I’m reading a Charles Dickens novel? “And for those who might reply that Democrats should put their money where their mouths are, this week I donated another $250 to a local food bank. I contribute 5% of my disposable income to food banks.” Frances Terrell Lippman of Sherman Oaks picks up on the Dickens reference: “I guess those Scrooge-like, coldhearted House Republicans thought of an early holiday surprise. How generous of them to think it would be appropriate just to remind people who are hungry and struggling that it would get a little more impossible for them to feed their families. Their apathy is only exceeded by their cruelty. “Being hungry and homeless in America is this country’s greatest shame, and yet our so-called leaders in Washington couldn’t care less and only serve to exacerbate this terrible and fixable situation. Watch out for that karma.” Oxnard resident Steve Binder says The Times should give this issue more attention: “Friday morning, I couldn’t wait to read The Times’ article about the Republican-led House voting to cut off food stamps for children, senior citizens, the disabled and especially our veterans. Too bad it was buried inside the paper.

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As Brad explained Thursday, the plan would kick 3.9 million people off the food stamp rolls the coming year.After next year,it would reduce the rolls by about 2.8 million people each year. The American Community Survey by the Census Bureau actually keeps track of how many households in each cistrict are on food stamps (thank to Andrew Reamer for pointing this out). So I thought it might be interesting to see how food stamps usage in districts represented by supporters of the cuts differs from usage in districts represented by opponents. Unsurprisingly, supporters’ districts are less reliant on the program, with an average of 12.4 percent of households on SNAP, than opponents’, where the average is about 15 percent. Curiously, the 15 House Republicans who opposed the cuts had districts with lower average food stamp use (~ 11.3 percent) than either districts of Republicans who supported them or districts of Democrats (all of whom opposed the cuts): But this result is pretty fragile, and driven by Democratic domination of the poorest, most SNAP-reliant districts rather than by strong support for cuts in districts that aren’t very reliant on the program. The only three congressional districts with SNAP utilization above 30 percent of households including New York’s 15th district, covering much of the Bronx, where ise is about 50 percent are all represented by Democrats. So it’s worth asking if the share of households on food stamps has any effect on House members’ votes once you take their party affiliation into account. It appears they don’t. If you do a simple regression trying to explain how members voted with only two explanatory variables the member’s party, and the share of his or her district on food stamps the latter isn’t even close to statistically significant. Now, that doesn’t mean that members of Congress aren’t responding to the views of their districts, since presumably economic conditions of districts including food stamp usage help determine which party represents them. But Democrats in districts with barely any food stamp users (such as Henry Waxman, whose district’s SNAP usage rate is a paltry 1.7 percent) all voted against cut, and Republicans in districts with huge numbers of food stamp users (such as Hal Rogers, 29 percent of whose district’s households are on SNAP) almost all voted for them. It’s yet another indication that House members are becoming less and less motivated by parochial interests of their districts and more and more unified on party lines.

The lesson of the food stamps vote: Party is all that matters now

The number of people using food stamps appears to be leveling off this year, and long-term budget projections suggest the number will begin to fall as the economy improves. Why is it taking so long? Although the jobless rate has dropped from its 2009 peak, it remains high, leaving a historically large number of people eligible for food stamps. Since the recession began, a bigger portion of people who are eligible have signed up for food stamps than in the past. Many people who enrolled during the worst days of the recession still qualify for SNAP cards, even if they are doing a little better now. For example, they may have gone from being laid off to working a low-paying or part-time job. The Congressional Budget Office predicts in about a decade the number of people using food stamps will drop to 34 million, or about 1 in every 10 people. Food and fraud Abuse was a worry from the start. The 1939 food stamp program was launched in May and by that October a retailer had been caught violating the rules. There’s been progress along the way, especially after the nationwide adoption of SNAP cards, which are harder to sell for cash than paper coupons were. The government says such “trafficking” in food stamps has fallen significantly over the past two decades, from about 4 cents on the dollar in 1993 to a penny per dollar in 2008. But many lawmakers say fraud is still costing taxpayers too much. Some people lie about their income, apply for benefits in multiple states or fail to quit the program when their earnings go up. Recipients must tell their state agency within 10 days if their income goes over the limit.

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These packaged meals are in a freezer on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, and are waiting to be distributed to schools where they will be heated and served. BILL ROTH Anchorage Daily News Buy Photo Story Photos: Recent Headlines Search local inventory, coupons and more By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS At Creekside Park Elementary School in Muldoon, lunchtime can be complicated. There’s a soft-spoken kindergartner so allergic to peanuts that she needs to sit at a table declared nut-free. Her allergy, the girl’s mom told her class on the first day of school, is severe enough that even airborne exposure could trigger a potentially deadly reaction. In the school kitchen, there’s a freezer compartment full of district-provided meals specially-made for another girl who gets sick if she consumes any animal byproducts. And there’s the school’s cafeteria manager, Joy Johnson, who has memorized the laminated collection of cards spelling out each child’s allergy: potatoes, soy, milk, corn, apples, legumes. This is the new reality of lunch in the Anchorage School District. As more children are diagnosed with serious food allergies, Anchorage schools are devoting more time and resources to accommodating them. That means lunch trays filled with district-prepared, allergy-free meals of ground bison and sweet potatoes and full-time nurses at each school. It means EpiPen trainings and “Peanut Reduced Environment” signs. It means one school declared entirely “cinnamon-free.” And it means each teacher, aide and cafeteria worker becomes an ad-hoc allergy expert, charged with keeping children safe from an accidental exposure through a system of checks and counter-checks.