2007-05-31 17:14:57 UTC
By Randolph T Holhut
Created May 30 2007 - 12:02pm
DUMMERSTON, Vt. - The federal food stamp program has never been known as
being particularly generous, but the combination of budget cuts and
inflation has made it even less so.
For all the talk you hear from economists saying the "core rate" of
inflation is stable, you have to remember that the figure excludes two
things all of us have to buy - food and energy. A trip to the grocery store
or the gas station will tell you that prices are rising higher and faster
than the 3 percent inflation rate we hear about.
It's been 11 years since the food stamp program increased its benefits. It's
been a decade since the federal minimum wage has been increased. Meanwhile,
the price of everything has gone up and the poorest among us are the ones
who get squeezed the worst.
If you are poor enough to qualify for food stamps, the average benefit per
person is about $3 per day per person. That's $21 a week for food.
On $21 a week, your grocery basket will have lots of rice and pasta and not
much meat and dairy products or fresh fruits and vegetables. It is difficult
to nearly impossible to eat a healthy diet, and as food prices keep rising,
it gets even harder.
Recently, several members of the House Hunger Caucus, led by Reps. Jim
McGovern, D-Mass., and JoAnn Emerson, R-Mo., tried to raise awareness of the
issue by trying to eat for a week on the $21.
To some, it may have been just a political stunt, but the Hunger Caucus
wanted to dramatize just what poor families in America are going through.
They discovered what the poor know too well - that $3 a day doesn't go very
far. You can read more about McGovern's week on the food stamp diet at
The federal Farm Bill comes up for reauthorization this summer. Included in
that bill is the food stamp program, and McGovern and Emerson are calling
for an increase of $4 billion to the current $33 billion budget, which
covered 26 million recipients last year. That would translate into an
additional $48 a month for a family of four - not much, but better than
More needs to be done so that more nutritious food is available through the
program. Education programs - to advise recipients about how to stretch
their food dollar and still eat healthy food - are also needed. Most of all,
the minimum wage needs to rise to the point where it is a living wage for
"All of us in Congress live pretty good lives," McGovern told The Washington
Post. "We don't have to wake up worrying about the next meal. But there are
a lot of Americans who do. I think it's wrong. I think it's immoral that in
the U.S., the richest country in the world, people are hungry."
A truly just nation would ensure that no one goes hungry. Unfortunately,
there always seems to be money available for war, but Congress too often
cries poverty when more money for social welfare programs is sought. This is
simply not right.
There are no lobbyists for the poor in Washington. They don't write big
checks for politicians. They are all but invisible to our leaders. This must
About author Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for
more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).
He can be reached at ***@yahoo.com .
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"A little patience and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their
spells dissolve, and the people recovering their true sight, restore their
government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are
suffering deeply in spirit,
and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public
debt. But if the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have
patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning
back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at