Written by Sara Gajdosich, CNN
Today, there are roughly 22 million people in the US who receive SNAP benefits, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. For most, the idea of receiving food assistance is a welcome relief from the tedium of the kitchen. However, critics of the program argue that food banks are not an adequate solution to poverty. The more that the government provides public assistance to lower-income Americans, the more that food banks are needed.
“We could say they’re not needed because food bank resources are being pulled from other places, that food banks should offer more services,” says Ann Ryan, the executive director of Feeding America. “But our sense is that that really isn’t the case.”
Ryan, however, is not completely convinced that giving recipients of SNAP benefits access to food banks will alleviate the country’s poverty rate. “The best way to eliminate poverty,” she explains, “is not giving people assistance but giving them the skills and tools to get themselves into employment.”
Elaske Chapin, The Nation, USA
One obvious problem, Chapin points out, is that receiving cash assistance can’t guarantee income. If you receive SNAP benefits, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to find a job. In 2017, there were 94,000 open jobs in the US. “So instead of giving people cash aid, if you want to reduce poverty,” Chapin says, “you actually want to make sure that you’ve got people in training that are gonna be able to take those jobs.”
A 2016 University of Illinois study found that federal food assistance in Arkansas was correlated with poverty significantly more than simply having relatives who used food assistance.
Delving deeper into the data, Chapin, explains that social isolation — due to unemployment, divorce, poor housing conditions, homelessness, or mental illness — can also exacerbate a child’s hunger.