Attacks on SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, our nation’s frontline defense against hunger – are often couched in terms that play upon pervasive myths about SNAP and the people in our nation who struggle with hunger.
Let’s take a moment to identify and understand the truth behind three common myths about SNAP.
MYTH ONE: SNAP RECIPIENTS ARE LAZY MOOCHERS
Detractors like to accuse those who rely on SNAP of being “just after a free lunch.” In reality, the majority of SNAP recipients (75%) who can work, do so. Those who are employed, often at multiple jobs, simply cannot always earn enough to cover their costs and afford the nutrition necessary for themselves and their family. And many of those who are not employed want to work, if only jobs were available to them. It’s also important to know that the majority (64%) of those on SNAP are senior citizens, people with disabilities, or children, and working is simply not an option for them.
MYTH TWO: ONLY CERTAIN PEOPLE DESERVE FOOD ASSISTANCE
Some opponents to SNAP like to bang a drum about ABAWDs–Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents. These are individuals who are between 18 and 49 who, according to critics, “should be able to work;” as such, they are subject to strict time limits, allowing them to receive SNAP benefits for only 90 days in three years. The ABAWD classification, however, covers a wide range of individuals and circumstances, not all of whom fit neatly into a simplified paradigm. ABAWDs include single parents of children over the age of 18. They are college students, and veterans, and people with undiagnosed disabilities. They are homeless people who struggle to find employment and 19 year-olds who have aged out of foster care and have no family on whom to rely.
MYTH THREE: FOOD INSECURITY ISN’T THE GOVERNMENT’S PROBLEM
Some policymakers like to point to charity as a better answer to addressing hunger in our nation. But the math simply doesn’t support their theory. According to The National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), in December 2015 there were 3,073 public charities that provided food to hungry people as identified in their Form 990 with the IRS. In total, their 2015 revenues totaled $11.47 billion. Total federal spending just on SNAP in 2015 was $75 billion. For these charities to replace SNAP, they would have to increase their annual revenues by more than 650%.
Please listen carefully to our nation’s policymakers when they talk about SNAP and the people who rely upon it. We hope this information helps you discern at least a few facts from myths. You can find answers for dispelling more common myths here.