STAFF REPORT @IndyRecorder
Since the 1960s, food stamps — officially known as The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — have helped people during periods of financial hardship. However, on July 18, the White House unveiled a budget proposal that, if enacted, would dramatically slash the SNAP program by about $193 billion, amounting to a staggering 25 percent cut.
What are the implications of these proposals for the Black community? It is well documented that African-Americans have less access to socio-economic opportunities and are at increased risk for poverty. While African-Americans make up just 13 percent of the general population, they make up 22 percent of food stamp recipients.
Trump’s proposed budget cut has grave implications for Black families in Indiana. According to the American Community Survey (2015), the overall Indiana Black poverty rate was 31.9 percent, compared to 15.4 percent for the general population. Furthermore, the poverty rate for African-American children in Indiana is approximately 48.7 percent, compared to 23 percent for all children.
Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, has shared that 18 percent of their clients identify as African-American. Weikert Bryant is hopeful that Congress will carefully scrutinize the proposed cuts and will heed hunger relief advocates’ calls to prevent the attack on SNAP.
Weikert Bryant also co-chairs SNAP Works for Hoosiers, a campaign set up earlier this year to protect the SNAP program from the proposed budget cuts. “We feel that the program works very well … this is an important program, and it shouldn’t be cut,” she said.
One of the goals of SNAP Works for Hoosiers is to dispel negative myths about food stamp recipients. For example, contrary to popular belief, many SNAP recipients have full-time jobs; the problem is that many of these jobs don’t provide a living wage, and recipients need government help because, believe it or not, many people simply don’t earn enough to pay basic bills and eat. That’s where SNAP comes in — by providing such workers with much-needed food assistance. Moreover, most people are not on food stamps for long; the average time spent on food stamps in Indiana is less than one year.
SNAP Works for Hoosiers also educates policy makers and the public about the benefits of SNAP. Children make up the largest percentage of SNAP recipients, and the program enables people to get out of the poverty cycle by providing a safety net for those experiencing hardship.
Ultimately, it is clear that the government’s proposed budget cuts to the SNAP program would have a disproportionately negative impact on Indiana’s Black community and exacerbate existing inequalities.
However, the situation isn’t hopeless; there are a number of local initiatives working to ensure Hoosiers have access to healthy food. Among these organizations are the Indiana Healthy Food Access Coalition, Good Food Connections of the Far Eastside and the Kheprw Institute. At Kheprw, their Community Controlled Food Initiative gives members a bag of fresh produce once a month for a nominal fee, and their aquaponics program teaches individuals how to raise fish and plants symbiotically.
Imhotep Adisa, Kheprw’s executive director, said that while budget cuts may negatively impact lives, part of the solution lies within the community.
“Anytime budgets are cut, people’s lives are impacted. That’s bad, that’s real bad, and 45’s in the White House, so there could be more cuts. Anytime you take money out of the budget, people with the least are impacted the most. But our work is focused on the concept of self-reliance and self-determination,” said Adisa. “How do we create solutions in our own communities with our own resources to bring about the change we want to see? It’s not the whole solution; we do think the policy makers and decision makers who work in those spaces should be challenged to take a closer look, but it will cause people to be empowered in their own spaces.”
Hoosiers can support efforts that educate and lobby congress to prevent the proposed cuts. Weikart Bryant encourages readers to check out the SNAP Works for Hoosiers campaign for more information.