SNAP under attack

A new proposal would cut essential food aid for 3 million Americans and 68,000 New Jersey residents.

Anti-hunger advocates across New Jersey are gearing up to fight a new threat to one of the nation’s most effective hunger prevention programs.

“SNAP, also known as food stamps, is under attack again,’’ said Adele LaTourette, director Hunger Free New Jersey. “And just like we defeated last year’s attempt to cut food aid to millions of Americans, we expect to see a groundswell of opposition that will stop this harmful proposal.’’

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Despite losing a battle last year to impose punitive work requirements through federal legislation, the Trump Administration now wants to change the rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps) to take food away from an estimated 3.1 million people nationally, LaTourette explained.

This would affect an estimated 68,000 New Jersey residents, including 26,000 children, 15,000 residents over age 60 and 27,000 people between the ages of 18 and 59, according to the New Jersey Department of Human Services.

Many of the children affected could also lose access to free school meals, as many are directly qualified to receive meals through the SNAP application process. Once they no longer qualify for SNAP, the free meals could also be cut, putting their health and learning at risk.

“The proposed rule change would literally ramp up hunger in our communities,’’ said Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO, Community Food Bank of New Jersey. “We already struggle to keep pace with the need and this would only make it worse in communities across New Jersey.’’

Hunger Free New Jersey and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey are rallying staff at food pantries, social service agencies and community organizations, as well as local and state leaders and other advocates across the state to weigh in, LaTourette said.

“Our national partner, the Food Research & Action Center, has established a platform at https://bit.ly/HandsOffSnap that makes it very easy for the average citizens to weigh in and influence this decision,’’ she explained. “We will also be taking to social media to amplify our message that no New Jersey resident – no American – should ever go hungry.’’

This proposed rule would end the practice of allowing low-income, working people whose gross incomes are slightly higher than the poverty level to qualify for SNAP benefits. It would also add an “asset test,’’ meaning certain assets, such as bank accounts or cars, would be considered when determining whether a person qualifies for SNAP and the level of monthly assistance that person would receive.

“People with even meager savings could be hurt,’’ Rodriguez said.

Last year, Congress rejected a proposal to impose harsh work requirements through the farm bill, federal legislation that governs SNAP policy and funding. This plan does not require Congressional approval, but the Trump Administration must consider public comments submitted during a 60-day period, which began on July 24 and ends Sept. 23.

Hunger Free New Jersey and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey are rallying staff at food pantries, social service agencies and community organizations, as well as local and state leaders and other advocates across the state to weigh in, LaTourette said.

“Our national partner, the Food Research & Action Center, has established a platform at https://bit.ly/HandsOffSnap that makes it very easy for the average citizens to weigh in and influence this decision,’’ she explained. “We will also be taking to social media to amplify our message that no New Jersey resident – no American – should ever go hungry.’’

“We urge all New Jersey residents, as well as local and state leaders, to send a strong message to the Trump Administration,’’ Rodriguez added. “Cutting aid to people struggling to put food on the table is bad public policy for all of us.’’

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s first line of defense against hunger. In New Jersey, nearly 690,000 people, including about 319,000 children, received this monthly assistance. Without this aid, families, senior citizens and others will struggle to feed themselves and their children.

SNAP also pumps more than one billion dollars into local retail stores in New Jersey each year. If the new rule is adopted, New Jersey stands to lose about $33 million that goes to families to buy food, according to the Department of Human Services.

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