SNAP: In Need of Reform?

In preparation for a class debate, I wrote the following position statement. I was assigned to the side of being Pro-SNAP in its current form. While I think that there is reform that could take place to make the program better for those receiving it, I tried to highlight some of the positive aspects of the current program below:

The Feeding America program writes, “One of the strongest features of SNAP is its ability to adjust quickly to fluctuations in economic conditions, whether nationally as during the recent recession, or locally as in response to a plant closing or natural disaster. SNAP’s responsiveness to unemployment proved it to be one of the most effective safety net programs during the recent recession, providing families with a stable source of food. As the number of unemployed people increased by 94% from 2007 to 2011, SNAP responded with a 70% increase in participation over the same period.” In a time where our country is far from being economically stable, why would we want to change a program that has helped so many individuals hang on.

The SNAP program allows these individuals who are struggling and in need of federal assistance to feel a sense of empowerment. Under this program, individuals have the opportunity to choose their own foods and determine what their groceries will be for the month, just as everyone who is fortunate enough to not be dependent on this federal assistance. SNAP also allows the individuals using the program to be discreet through the use of EBT cards that essentially look the same as a credit or debit card.

Now let’s focus on Montana. During 2011, our state’s population hit one million people. In a state that can boast having more cows than people, there are still many individuals that are dependent on federal assistance programs such as SNAP in order to have access to a meal. According to the USDA, in “Fiscal Year 2010, SNAP provided about $176.5 million dollars in food benefits to a monthly average of over 113,570 people in Montana. The program served 65 percent of those eligible for benefits in Montana in 2008. SNAP also has an economic multiplier effect with every $5 in new SNAP benefits generating as much as $9 in total economic activity. “

If SNAP is responsible for providing food to over ten percent of our state’s population, how can we justify changing it in a way that would possibly make it less effective? Rather than changing the way that SNAP benefits are distributed, let us focus our efforts on enrolling more people who are eligible to be receiving assistance this program. Also, efforts should be made to educate the individuals receiving SNAP in order to have the money be put toward foods that will benefit the individuals’ health and allow them to become educated in the process.

Rather than limiting individuals, we should focus on empowering them to make the decisions that will be the most beneficial to them personally.