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Letter to the House Opposing Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

September 18, 2013

Dear Representative,

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association (NEA) and the students they serve, we urge you to VOTE NO on the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013 (H.R. 3102). This legislation will impose deep and harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at a time when one out of every five children is living in poverty. Votes associated with this issue may be included in NEA’s Legislative Report Card for the 113th Congress.

These proposed cuts will put millions of Americans at risk of going hungry and hurt the most vulnerable in our nation, especially children who comprise nearly half of SNAP enrolees. Among the cuts are provisions that would undermine the automatic enrollment of low-income children in school meals programs. This will result in more than 210,000 children losing access to nutritious meals at school, which help children be more attentive in class, have better attendance and fewer disciplinary problems.

NEA members know first-hand that hungry children struggle to 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 impact on learning. In addition, undernourished children are typically fatigued and uninterested in their social environments. 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). 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 children lived with a parent unemployed six months or longer during a typical month in 2011;
  • 8 million 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);
  • 6 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.)

Children will feel the brunt of the pain from deep cuts to SNAP. Punishing children, who don’t have jobs to help their families pay the bills or put food on the table, is senseless. Attempting to reduce the deficit on the backs of hungry children and working families is simply contrary to our values as a nation. We strongly urge you to vote no on these cuts to vital food assistance programs.

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations