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Expert: Food stamp block grants ups hunger

Sept. 16, 2012 at 2:41 PM   |   Comments

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Republicans and Democrats proposed cuts to restructuring food stamps, but modifying the program may lead to more food insecurity, a U.S. researcher says.

Craig Gundersen of the University of Illinois said cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, former Food Stamp Program, is the wrong approach to fighting hunger.

Some Republicans suggest cutting the funds for SNAP by changing the funding structure of SNAP into a block-grant program in which each state receives a fixed sum of money.

"That has its advantages -- states can construct their program any way that they wish," he said. "But the big problem is that during bad economic times, that pool of money doesn't increase -- because states budgets have to be balanced and when times are tough, states make cutbacks -- which destroys the entitlement structure of the program. In the past, programs that have been block-granted are less likely to see increases in bad economic times."

Some Democrats proposed limits on what types of food beneficiaries could purchases, for example, a New York City proposal prohibited participants from buying sports drinks with SNAP benefits, Gundersen said.

"Telling participants that they could purchase this but couldn't purchase that -- well, we know from numerous studies that when you restrict benefits in any way, fewer people participate," Gundersen said. "Nobody tells you how to spend your mortgage tax deduction, why would we dictate to someone who is hungry what they can or can't eat?"

Gundersen said what drives SNAP spending is the economy, when the economy improves the numbers on SNAP will go down.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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