90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Food Stamps: Fighting Hunger Or Draining Resources?

Congress says food stamps are costing the country too much and debating big cuts. One in every seven Americans is using them to eat. What’s going on?

In this 2010 photo, a sign announcing the acceptance of electronic Benefit Transfer cards is seen at a farmers market in Roseville, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

In this 2010 photo, a sign announcing the acceptance of electronic Benefit Transfer cards is seen at a farmers market in Roseville, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

It’s time for Farm Bill renewal in Congress, and the biggest item by far in the big bill is not about tractors or sugar beets or corn subsidies.  It’s about food stamps.

In total, $80 billion a year out of the $100 billion in Farm Bill spending goes to food stamps — to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, with 48 million American getting help with the grocery bill.

That number exploded during the Great Recession. It’s still high. Some in Congress want to whack it back. But for a lot of Americans, it’s what’s for dinner.

Up next On Point: The Farm Bill and food stamps.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Mary Clare Jalonick, food and farm reporter for the Associated Press (@MCJalonick)

Deborah Frank, founder and principal investigator for Children’s HealthWatch. She’s also the director of The Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center and a professor of child health and well-being at Boston University School of Medicine.

Daniel Sumner, director of the Agricultural Issues Center at the University of California at Davis. He’s also the former Assistant Secretary for Economics at the United States Department of Agriculture. He formerly served as a senior economist at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the USDA.

From Tom’s Reading List

USDA: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — “SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.  The Food and Nutrition Service works with State agencies, nutrition educators, and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to ensure that those eligible for nutrition assistance can make informed decisions about applying for the program and can access benefits.”

Wall Street Journal: Use Of Food Stamps Swells As Economy Improves — “The financial crisis is over and the recession ended in 2009. But one of the federal government’s biggest social welfare programs, which expanded when the economy convulsed, isn’t shrinking back alongside the recovery. Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as the modern-day food-stamp benefit is known, has soared 70% since 2008 to a record 47.8 million as of December 2012. Congressional budget analysts think participation will rise again this year and dip only slightly in coming years.”

Associated Press: Senate Votes To Make Small Cut To Food Stamps — “The Senate voted Tuesday to keep a $400 million annual cut — or roughly a half of 1 percent — to the food stamp program as part of a major five-year farm bill. Food stamps now cost almost $80 billion annually and are used by 1 in 7 Americans. The House and Senate have differed sharply on how much the domestic food aid should be cut, with the House version of the farm bill proposing to cut five times more than the Senate bill and change eligibility rules for recipients.”

Chicago Tribune: Editorial: Worry About Food Stamp Growth, Not Junk Food — “Is there any human impulse stronger than the urge to tell others what not to eat? Fast food, red meat, white bread, trans fats, sugary cereals, processed foods, salty snacks, fried anything, refined grains, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, sodium, Snickers bars … We’re surrounded by unhealthy choices, and by people who would like to legislate them away.The latest victims of these well-intentioned busybodies are low-income Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, still known to most everyone as food stamps.”

Tweets From During The Show

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Mar 6, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he speaks before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Since Republicans took control of Congress two months ago, an elaborate tug of war has broken out between GOP lawmakers and Obama over who calls the shots on major issues for the next two years. (AP)

Netanyahu’s speech. Hillary Clinton’s email. Obamacare back at the high court. A stunning start to the Boston Marathon bombing trial. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Mar 6, 2015
"The Sellout" is novelist Paul Beatty's new book. (Courtesy Farrar, Strauss & Giroux)

Author Paul Beatty’s novel “The Sellout” is a satirical look at race relations in America. He joins us.

RECENT
SHOWS
Mar 5, 2015
One in four women use psychiatric medication. The reasons for the medication aren't always so clear. (Flickr)

Are American women being prescribed psychiatric drugs – anti-depressants, anti-psychotics — for normal emotions? We’ll hear out one psychiatrist’s bold claim.

 
Mar 5, 2015
A car passes a memorial for Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson last summer, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, in Ferguson. A Justice Department investigation found sweeping patterns of racial bias within the Ferguson police department, with officers routinely discriminating against blacks by using excessive force, issuing petty citations and making baseless traffic stops, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the report.  (AP)

The big Justice Department report finds a pattern of racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department. Now what? We’re back in Ferguson – and beyond — for answers.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Answers To Your Questions On Black Holes
Tuesday, Mar 3, 2015

Yale University’s Priyamvada Natarajan answers your black hole questions in full. (Well, most of them.)

More »
Comment
 
Want To Listen To Lead Belly? Here’s Where To Start
Monday, Mar 2, 2015

Loved our show on Lead Belly, but unsure on where you should start to listen? Jeff Place of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage offers his best picks for a beginning Lead Belly listener.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: February 27, 2015
Friday, Feb 27, 2015

We won’t lead you into a debate on the color of #TheDress (it’s blue and black, end of debate), but we do wonder about the blurring lines between so-called Internet culture and general popular culture. Also, it’s snowing in Boston. Still.

More »
Comment