SNAP Goes Justice

SNAP, the nation’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture.  Popularly known as “food stamps,” SNAP is the primary vehicle by which Americans express their solidarity and compassion for hungry neighbors.  Without a doubt, SNAP is the nation’s premier tool to fight hunger.

Now that it has reconvened, the U. S. House of Representatives is considering cutting SNAP by a breathtaking $169 billion.  In a stance that I hope is naïve, but I fear is callous, some representatives are suggesting that the faith communities of our nation can take up the slack should Congress enact this massive cut.  This expectation is so far from reality, it strains credulity.

Do the math.  In order to meet this reduction in food stamps, every congregation in the country would have to come up with roughly $50,000.00 per year for the next ten years.  Here are the figures for Florida’s faith communities, complied for Florida Impact:

Religious Community

Number of Congregations in Florida

Total Adherents

Ten-Year Contribution Needed to Subsidize Proposed SNAP Cuts

United Methodist Church

768

468,080

$384,000,000

Africa Methodist Episcopal Church

453

111,300

$226,500,000

Presbyterian Church

351

127,670

$175,500,000

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

194

68,140

$97,000,000

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Florida/Georgia District

175

65,448

$70,000,000

Roman Catholic Church

 516

 2,300,000

 $258,000,000

Episcopal Church

334

129,482

 $167,000,000

Jewish congregations (including Reform, Conservative, etc.)

329

613,000

$164,500,000

Half of the congregations of the Presbyterian Church (USA), my denomination, are composed of fewer than 100 members.  Most of these congregations cannot afford the minimum salary for a full-time pastor.  Does Congress really think that every congregation can chip in $50,000.00 per year?

In these difficult financial times, food pantries across the nation – many of them run by faith communities — are reporting 100% increase in demand for their services.  Even with food stamps at their current level, families are struggling to put food on the table.  Cuts of the magnitude proposed are, to put it mildly, unconscionable.

Although they go hand in hand, there is a difference between justice and charity.  Food pantries are an expression of charity.  The SNAP program is an expression of justice.  There is no just reason why people in this land of plenty should go hungry.  It’s up to all of us – not just those of us in the faith community – to see that justice is done.


About Brant Copeland

I was born in Brownsville, Texas, grew up in San Antonio and in Lake Charles, Louisiana. I'm the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Tallahassee, Florida.
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4 Responses to SNAP Goes Justice

  1. David Custis says:

    Brant, Thanks, as usual. Dave

  2. MindMindful says:

    I appreciate the difference you make between charity & justice — there’s no lasting peace w/o justice, & it’s up to each of us to see that it is done.

  3. MindMindful says:

    Reblogged this on FeedingPeace and commented:
    The author makes the point here that charity is different from justice ……….

  4. Jennifer Carter says:

    As the director of church run, medium-sized food pantry in Northern PA, I can confirm that recent weekly attendence is indeed up approximately 100%. Our tiny congregation struggles to make sure there is enough food every Friday to help local families in crisis. Most of the approximately 500 households we serve are comprised of the working poor who simply cannot make it on their meager wages alone. Many of these families must also use SNAP and WIC to make ends meet. Although it is a federal program, SNAP benefits are administered and distributed by each individual state. SNAP funding is a set, budgeted amount that does not increase with growing demand. This means that most families have already had their SNAP benefits reduced in recent months, simply because there are so many more families experiencing food insecurity at this time. The idea of reducing the program further is nightmarish. It is a fantasy to imagine that the faith community will be able to compensate for further serious cuts. Sadly, it also shows a complete lack of understanding or appreciation for what is already being done within our churches and syngogues. Almost every single food pantry/soup kitchen program within 60 miles of our town is the outreach effort of a local church. It is more than a bit discouraging to realize that the enormous efforts, lovingly expended by thousands of volunteers don’t really register in the minds of our legislators.

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