On National Public Radio’s “Diane Rehm Show” today, Stacy Dean, Vice President for Food Assistance Policy, discussed the important role of SNAP (food stamps) in reducing poverty and hunger and addressed concerns about the program’s growth in recent years:
Some policymakers have raised concerns about growth as a means to justify cuts to food benefits… Claims about growth are flatly wrong. I want to go through them:
The program grew fundamentally as a result of the recession. We have lost millions of jobs, there are 12 million people out of work, and that is what the program is first and foremost responding to.
Congress plussed-up benefits modestly in 2009 as a part of the Recovery Act because the program was understood by economists to provide economic stimulus. After unemployment insurance, it is viewed as one of the most highly effective means to stimulate the economy. A dollar in SNAP generates $1.74 in economic activity according to Moody’s Analytics.
Also, we are reaching a higher share of eligible people. When more eligible people enroll, of course those enrolled go up.
But we have only talked about half the story… As the economy improves, it is just as SNAP grows when the economy weakens. It will shrink when the economy comes back.