Farming out the Poor

June 20, 2013

Earlier today the U.S. House of Representatives failed to pass its version of the farm bill. Although there are parts of the legislation that are much needed, it is good that the current bill died since it cut more $20 billion from SNAP (formally food stamps) and $2.5 billion from international food aid. I previously critiqued part of the theological debate about these cuts that arose in a congressional hearing (see post here). Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts who has consistently fought for more anti-hunger efforts, unsuccessfully tried to get an amendment added to the bill today to restore the cut funding. He argued during the debate before the vote on the amendment:

This is a debate about values and priorities. ... Let us stay true to our values of compassion, decency and justice. Let us give priority to those among us who are struggling in these hard times.
To raise awareness about the problems with the cuts to SNAP, more than two dozen Democrats in Congress - including McGovern - last week took up the "SNAP challenge" by living on the amount of money a SNAP recipient receives. Although not a full fast, it did leave the participants hungry. Although it serves as a stunt to bring attention to a public policy problem, it should not be simply dismissed as just a political trick. After all, much of what the Old Testaments prophets did were stunts to dramatically get attention (and many were much wilder than the "SNAP challenge"). Considering the current voting pattern in Congress that approves of the cuts to SNAP, perhaps we need more prophetic drama.