The White House has released a new budget proposal, and it’s not good news for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan, commonly known as food stamps or Link in Illinois. The plan calls for a $193 billion, or 25 percent, cut to the program that currently serves 42 million Americans. Craig Gundersen, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, has been studying SNAP and its effects on food insecurity for years.
“SNAP is a great program. It is the key component of the social safety net against food insecurity,” Gundersen says.
Given the success of SNAP, Gundersen emphasizes that efforts to cut the size of the program will lead to dramatic increases in food insecurity.
Food insecurity and SNAP were the topics of a recent podcast and Twitter chat with Gundersen.
According to Gundersen, food insecurity is a major contributor to negative health outcomes in the United States. These range from depression and malnutrition to behavioral problems for children in school. Given this, it is not surprising that food insecurity also leads to substantially higher health care costs. “Because SNAP leads to greater food security, the program also brings down health care costs,” he says.
Overall, Gundersen says he can’t think of a more successful government program than SNAP. The research indicates that the program is associated with higher nutrient intake, reductions in poverty, and reductions in infant mortality. But it does more than that.
“One of the key advantages to SNAP is that it gives dignity to recipients,” he says. “They can purchase what they think is best for their families. Restricting that is demeaning and stigmatizing to poor people.”