Last week’s national poll results on food stamps should make Washington legislators take notice.
The poll found overwhelming support from voters for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, known universally as food stamps.
Along with tens of thousands of Washington children benefitting from SNAP, more than 12,000 children in our state depend on a form of food stamps called State Food Assistance – one of the vital programs lawmakers may cut.
The poll, conducted in the second week of January, is a strong indication that cutting SFA would be enormously unpopular:
- Four out of five voters say that families and children being unable to afford enough to eat is a serious problem;
- Opposition to cutting food supports like SNAP and State Food Assistance transcends party lines: 92 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of independent voters, and say cutting food stamps is the wrong way to reduce spending;
- Support for SNAP also bridges age, race, gender, income and geographic lines.
Why do food stamps have such broad support? People know these are hard times. Despite some misleading election-year rhetoric, 1 in 7 Americans are getting by with help from SNAP. Here in Washington, they’re used by more than half a million households and one million individuals.
Those recipients are much like Minus Samuel of Federal Way.
Though Samuel and his family members have relied on food banks to get by, he doesn’t qualify for federal SNAP benefits. Instead, he uses State Food Assistance, which state lawmakers created 15 years ago to help make sure no one would go hungry in Washington because of where they’re from.
Samuel and his family are from the Marshall Islands, whose residents are allowed to live in the United States because of the devastating nuclear testing in his South Pacific homeland during the Cold War.
His grandchildren, Christina and Rosa (above), are just two of the hundreds of thousands of children in the state whose families need help to afford healthy food.
Yet of all the Washingtonians using food stamps, those two kids and other children in immigrant families – a large number of whom are children of color – are the only ones at risk of losing this crucial lifeline.
The number of people using food assistance is high now because times are bad now – and because SNAP works. Overwhelming public support for food assistance programs like SNAP should signal to legislators that cutting State Food Assistance is not only bad values, but bad politics. The public doesn’t want to reduce support for people in need. Quite the opposite: they know we need strong support in times like this.