INDIANAPOLIS – Possible changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) now under debate in Congress could overwhelm the faith groups that run some of Indiana’s hunger fighting programs.
Rules added to SNAP under a proposal in the House could include much tighter income and work requirements for eligibility.
States where those tactics have been tried report more people showing up at food banks and pantries.
Andrew Green, chief program officer for Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis, says the problem is, his center is already feeding as many people as it can.
“We would likely see more of a demand on the food pantry side of things, and the meals that we serve and the food co-op that we operate here,” he states. “And just because of how tight things are currently, I think we would run the risk of having to turn people away.”
Supporters argue tighter rules could save the government money by forcing people to get jobs.
Green says that requirement doesn’t match what his staff sees in the folks who come to the center.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, among adults on SNAP who are able to work, 80 percent are already working or between jobs.
SNAP and other federal safety net programs have been attacked as welfare for people avoiding work.
Green says his center sees little of that. Mostly, he says, people want to have jobs, if they can.
“We already see families wanting to pursue employment,” he stresses. “We need to look at addressing other barriers, instead of jeopardizing food – transportation and mental illness and training.”
The Senate Agriculture Committee has just released a version of the Farm Bill, which includes the SNAP reauthorization. It doesn’t include many of the more restrictive provisions found in the House version.