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Sorry, ‘SNAP Challengers’: Meager Meals Misrepresent Food Stamp Program, Says WaPo Fact Checker

Sorry, 'SNAP Challengers': Meager Meals Misrepresent Food Stamp Program, Says WaPo

You have probably stumbled across this phenomenon: lawmakers or public personalities chronicling their meager subsistence on a series of morsels or sending out pictures of them consuming only the barest of meals. This, they say, is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Challenge. Lawmakers attempt to make a point about how insufficient the nation’s food stamp program is by attempting to live off the sum provided to recipients. The problem is, according to Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler, those lawmakers are ignoring the “S” in SNAP. By suggesting the program is supposed to serve as the only source of an individual’s nourishment, those lawmakers are misrepresenting what the program is designed to accomplish. Kessler gave the SNAP Challengers’ misguided crusade two Pinocchios.

“More than two dozen Democrats, organized by Rep. [Barbara] Lee (D-CA),announced they would take the challenge to highlight what they consider damaging cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the new name for food stamps,” Kessler began. “Newark mayor and Senate hopeful Cory Booker took a high-profile plunge into the Snap Challenge last year. Former representative Anthony Weiner, running for New York City mayor, is also participating.”

Kessler hits those lawmakers for implying that most SNAP recipients have virtually no income and subsist entirely on government assistance. In fact, only 20 percent of SNAP participants have no income. Most receive some wages or government assistance.

Furthermore, SNAP benefits are tiered. “SNAP benefits are reduced according to a formula that lowers the maximum benefit by 30 percent of net income; about 32 percent of households with children receive the maximum benefit,” Kessler writes.

Moreover, the maximum monthly benefits can quickly climb as the size of the household grows. A family of four, for instance, could receive as much as $668 a month for food. Indeed, households with children receive 71 percent of all SNAP benefits.

“USDA also publishes an extensive list of recipes that can be used to produce a healthy low-cost meal. A search for meals costing $4.50 or less turned up 444 options, many of which were for eight or more servings. Meals costing less than $1.50 produced 116 results,” Kessler notes.

He also chronicles the backlash against the misrepresentative SNAP Challenge campaign. He notes that Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) has been recording his own SNAP Challenge by living comfortably off the true amount received by most beneficiaries.

Kessler posts this tweet from FreedomWorks’ New Media Director Kristina Ribali who demonstrates just how far benefits can go if they are stretched:

Kessler chronicles how important SNAP can be for low income recipients and notes that studies have shown that the program does help lift needy families out of the condition of food insecurity. However, “buying food based only on the average SNAP benefit for a single person gives a misleading impression of the program and its intended impact.”

“By suggesting that SNAP is intended to be the only source of food income, even if some recipients use it in that way, lawmakers stretch the purpose of the program,” Kessler concludes.

Read the full post via The Washington Post

> >Follow Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) on Twitter

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