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Letter to the House Opposing Proposed Cuts to SNAP (Food Stamps) and Child Nutrition Programs

April 27, 2012

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we would like to express our strong opposition to cuts to the SNAP (formerly food stamps) food assistance program approved by the Agriculture Committee, including provisions that would undermine the automatic enrollment of low-income children in school meals programs.  At a time in American history when one of every five children is living in poverty, it would be unconscionable to exacerbate the challenge so many American children and their families are facing just to survive.

NEA members know first-hand that hungry children cannot learn, and that access to an adequate and healthy diet is essential to academic success.  The clear link between good nutrition and learning is evident in schools across the nation every day.  According to the Nutrition Cognition Initiative at Tufts University, continuous low nutritional intake affects factors such as motivation and attentiveness, which can have a negative effect on developmental processes such as learning. Chronically undernourished children and adolescents are more prone to irritability and lack of concentration. In addition, undernourished children are typically fatigued and uninterested in their social environments. Such children are less likely to establish relationships or to explore and learn from their surroundings. Undernourished children are also more susceptible to illness and, thus, more likely to be absent from school. (The Link between Nutrition and Cognitive Development in Children, Tufts Univ., Medford, MA. Center on Hunger, Poverty and Nutrition Policy). 

Yet, far too many children lack consistent access to an adequate, nutritious diet.  Hungry children are often irritable, feel ill, and lack concentration.  In contrast, students who come to class well-nourished have fewer behavioral and attendance problems, and have higher test scores.   

In these difficult economic times, food assistance programs are even more critical for children and families:

  • 2.7 million more children lived with an unemployed parent during a typical month in 2011, compared to 2007 (an increase of 71%), bringing the 2011 total to 6.5 million children; 
  • 3 million (47% of those living with an unemployed parent) lived, during a typical 2011 month, with a parent unemployed six months or longer;
  • 8 million more additional children relied upon SNAP for food in 2011, compared to 2007, bringing the total number of children receiving SNAP to 21 million (one in four);
  • 16 million children (more than one in five) currently live in poverty. (The Recession’s Ongoing Impact on America’s Children: Indicators of Children’s Economic Well-Being Through 2011, Julia Isaacs, Brookings Institution, December 2011.)  

The proposed budget cuts would kick 280,000 low-income children off automatic enrollment in the Free School Lunch and Breakfast Program. Those same children, and 1.5 million other people, will also lose their SNAP benefits that help them afford food at home.  Attempting to balance the budget on the backs of hungry children and families, while continuing to support tax breaks for millionaires and large corporations, is simply unconscionable and contrary to our values as a nation. 

We strongly urge you to oppose these cuts to vital food assistance programs. 

Sincerely, 

Kim Anderson
Director, Center for Advocacy 

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations