Editorials

Low-income families in Kansas City could see food stamps cut if shutdown continues

What is SNAP?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a food assistance program that aids millions of low-income families and individuals.
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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a food assistance program that aids millions of low-income families and individuals.

The unintended consequences of the partial federal government shutdown will leave some low-income folks struggling to feed their families if the impasse doesn’t end soon.

The deadline for food stamps recipients in Kansas and Missouri to receive their benefits for February was Sunday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture informed states that February food stamps payments for SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, needed to be issued early due to the shutdown.

Low-income households will suffer the most. Their food benefits could be cut back considerably in March and then eliminated altogether in April if the shutdown continues, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

No family should go hungry in this country. But those in need could become collateral damage if the government remains shuttered and the philanthropic community can’t fill the void.

“Everyone is operating on a wing and a prayer right now,” said Kathleen Kennedy of faith-based Bishop Sullivan Center, a household assistance organization that serves the Kansas City area. “You can’t do what you need to do without eating. We are day to day, but we will do what we need to do to help families.”

The organization and other food pantries will need an influx of volunteers, food and monetary donations if the shutdown continues.

Lawanna Duke, a 43-year-old food stamp recipient from Kansas City, Kan., is leaning on prayer to fight through the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

“Don’t fight; don’t cry; lift your head to the sky,” Duke said.

She expressed frustration with President Donald Trump’s emphatic stance on erecting a wall to protect the southern border of the country.

“Donald Trump doesn’t run this world. My God does,” Duke said.

Faith aside — and it’s going take faith and more to help cash-strapped families put food on the table — recipients will be forced to budget their combined benefits until the standoff is over. That is a daunting prospect for those with no financial cushion.

“I just pray for the families with kids,” Duke said.

Many in Kansas and Missouri were already struggling to pay for basic necessities.

In Kansas, more than 72 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children, a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis found. Almost 34 percent are in families with members who are elderly or have disabilities. More than 49 percent are in working families.

More than 13 percent of households in Kansas were labeled “food insecure,” or struggling to afford a nutritious diet. The numbers are similar in Missouri. Nearly 13 percent of Missouri households were labeled food insecure.

Food stamps don’t come close to covering the costs of a family’s groceries. But they are a lifeline for those who are trying to patch together a way to feed their families each day.

Some of the most vulnerable among us will need financial support in the coming weeks, and perhaps months. If Washington politicians can’t find a way to do the right thing and reopen the government, our Kansas City community will need to help fill in this gap.

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