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Voices from SNAP’s Founding Warn Against Anti-Hunger Backslide

Proposed massive cuts in SNAP, like those in President Trump’s budget, represent “a stunning attempt to reverse the slow but steady progress we have made” against hunger in recent decades, Georgetown Law Professor Peter Edelman and Rep. Joe Kennedy III explain in a Time op-ed.

Over 40 years ago, SNAP (then called the Food Stamp Program) was born from a bipartisan commitment to ensure that all low-income Americans have enough to eat, regardless of their circumstances or where they live. At that time, severe hunger was widespread in some regions of the country. Senator Robert Kennedy (to whom Edelman was an aide) witnessed this suffering first-hand in 1967 when he traveled to some of the most impoverished areas of the country. Edelman and Rep. Kennedy (the grandson of Senator Kennedy) explain what he found:

Their bellies were swollen and their fragile limbs covered with sores that would not heal. Clothed in rags, these children of the Mississippi Delta huddled in crumbling shacks with empty iceboxes, not a morsel of food to be found.

Kennedy’s trip helped raise national awareness and eventually spurred policymakers to expand food stamps nationwide, which has practically eliminated severe hunger and nourished decades of bipartisan support for the program. Today, SNAP — the country’s most important anti-hunger program — reduces food insecurity and lifts millions out of poverty each year.

Deep cuts to SNAP would breach the country’s guarantee that the most vulnerable Americans should have sufficient food, Edelman and Kennedy warn. As CBPP President Robert Greenstein recently noted, the threat of those cuts reminds us of a time in our not-so-distant past when many children suffered from life-threatening malnutrition. Such policies would turn back the clock, putting more Americans at risk of hunger.