Congress is planning to cut up to $16 billion from low-income food aid over the next five years. But research shows that every dollar spent on assistance pays for itself and grows the economy.
In its current form, the House Agriculture Committee's version of the farm bill proposes draconian cuts to food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The ill-thought-out proposal would deny food assistance to millions of people, many of them children. Speaking as a chef and CEO of a national nonprofit that supports small and mid-sized farmers who make fresh fruits and vegetables available to everyone regardless of income, I'm obviously alarmed.
The Senate's version of the farm bill would reduce overall funding by $23 billion, with a reduction in food stamps of $4.5 billion over five years. The House Agriculture Committee is proposing to cut funding by $35 billion -- with nearly half the overall cut coming from reductions in food stamps by $16 billion over five years.
Those who believe in cutting SNAP funding as a cost-saving measure should know that food stamps boost the economy -- not put a strain on it. Supporters of federal food benefits programs including President George W. Bush understood this, and proved the economic value of SNAP by sanctioning a USDA study that found that $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in gross domestic product (GDP). Mark Zandi, of Moody's Economy.com, confirmed the economic boost in an independent study that found that every SNAP dollar spent generates $1.73 in real GDP increase. "Expanding food stamps," the study read, "is the most effective way to prime the economy's pump."