Dear Representatives: Do the Right Thing and Protect SNAP

These days I worry about what the House Republicans will ultimately decide about SNAP—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that is part of their House Farm Bill. 

SNAP is a federal program that helps millions of low income people put food on the table.  If House leadership gets their way, they will impose stricter so-called “work requirements,” which will automatically disqualify millions of women, men, and their families – who are already struggling financially –from receiving vital food assistance that protects them from starvation.

I’m a 21 year-old college student, and for me the current debate is neither remote nor abstract.  It is deeply personal. Too often, legislation is based on abstract theories that are divorced from peoples’ lived experiences. My hope is that by sharing my experience this article will find its way into the right hands and persuade policymakers to do the right thing. When I was younger, I was diagnosed with a learning disability. To care for me and accommodate all of my unique needs, my single mother had to take on shift-based work which is often lower paying.  Over the years, she has done everything from babysitting, to catering, to cleaning apartments and various temporary office jobs to try to make ends meet. I can’t think of a time when she wasn’t juggling at least three jobs.

My mom is the hardest working person I know. Although she does not have a college degree and never had financial support from family, she took care of me singlehandedly. I don’t know how my mom did it. On top of balancing multiple jobs, she helped me navigate a learning disability that made going to school and learning extremely challenging. She sat for hours while I struggled to learn to read, well past 3rd grade. She created games to help me understand basic math homework, which took hours of practice. She was always there when I needed her and we had a roof over our heads. However, despite her best efforts, there came a time when we needed food stamps to get by. Had the proposed work requirements been in place it is unclear whether my mother would have been able to balance it all.

My mom’s story is not unique. Millions of people across the country are scrambling to gain a financial toe-hold and many rely on SNAP to keep themselves and their families from going hungry.  Do our elected representatives understand what’s at stake for people like us? Do politicians really want to push people who are doing their best into starvation?

My mother chose to sacrifice her work history for me. Because of this she still works the night shift at a supermarket. She believes she will have to work until the day she dies. This breaks my heart. SNAP is not a handout that’s exploited by people who are lazy and don’t want to work. Rather, SNAP keeps people from starvation. I would ask you to trade places with my mom for a week and see if you are able to keep up with the physical and mental stress of her job and pay your bills on time. Then, please go back to the drawing board and reassess your plan.   Representatives, do the right thing, recognize that those assisted by SNAP have already made incredible sacrifices. It’s time to acknowledge that SNAP is not a quick fix or a security net; it is a means of survival. There is no magic solution to poverty but taking away SNAP from thousands will only serve to exacerbate the issue.