The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development urged the U.S. House of Representatives not to accept a proposed $40 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, wrote, "Adequate and nutritious food is a fundamental human right and a basic need that is integral to protecting the life and dignity of the human person." He called SNAP "one of the most effective and important federal programs to combat hunger in the nation by helping to feed millions of persons in need every year."
“SNAP helps relieve pressure on overwhelmed parishes, charities, food banks, pantries and other emergency food providers across the country that could not begin to meet the need for food assistance if SNAP eligibility or benefits were reduced,” he added. “The faith community and the private sector are vital in the fight to combat hunger. But government has an indispensable role in safeguarding and promoting the common good of all. This includes ensuring that poor and hungry people have access to adequate and nutritious food.”
According to Bishop Blaire, how the House chooses to address hunger and nutrition programs has “profound moral consequences." He added, "Struggling people are not seeking a life of government dependency, but rightfully deserve decent paying jobs to provide for them and their families. Even with evidence of a modest economic recovery, the economy still has not improved the standard of living for many people, especially for the poor and the working poor. More than four million people have been jobless for over six months, and that does not include the millions more who have simply lost hope."
He said, "For every available job, there are often five unemployed and underemployed people actively vying for it. SNAP remains an essential tool to help struggling individuals and families avoid hunger and stay out of poverty.
Bishop Blaire called proposals to eliminate SNAP access for people who have committed certain crimes at some point in their lives “counterproductive and an affront to human dignity.” He also urged that states should retain the flexibility they currently have to respond to local needs and economic conditions.
The full text of Bishop Blaire’s letter is available here.