Letter To The Editor: 1 in 8 is too many

From graduate student Mariah Seater, Young Alaskans for Anti-Poverty Initiatives.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program. The U.S. Census Bureau just released new data showing that 1 in 8 Americans lives in poverty.

Alaska is not immune to this struggle.

Currently, more than 73 percent of SNAP participants in Alaska are in families with children, almost 26 percent are in families with members who are elderly or have disabilities and more than 42 percent are in working Alaskan families. These numbers should shock all of us, especially since just a few months ago the House of Representatives took a vote that would make it harder for more than a million low-income families to put food on the table. They proposed new requirements for SNAP (what we used to call “food stamps”) in their version of the farm bill, even though data shows that SNAP helped 21,000 Alaskans (including 11,000 children) and 3.4 million people nationwide move above the poverty line in 2017.

Fortunately, the Senate seems to understand what’s at stake and passed a bipartisan farm bill that protects SNAP. Now, though, both chambers are negotiating a final version of the legislation.  I hope I can count on them to do the right thing and stand up for a program that helps over 40 million people, including 89,000 Alaskans, put food on the table. Making cuts or changes to SNAP won’t help anyone find work or move out of poverty; it will just make people hungry.