With several proposed cuts to SNAP, better known as food stamps, a new fad has emerged among social activists: food stamp challenges. Among the most notable challengers is Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who will begin the challenge on December 4 and is already hyping, on Twitter of course, his plan to budget a week’s food allowance according to what those on food stamps are able to spend on the program.
Booker and other challengers don’t seem to realize what SNAP actually stands for: Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. The word supplemental is a crucial descriptor for the program, which was never meant to be the sole provider of nutrition for its enrollees. There are other ways fill the gaps between SNAP and full nutrition, including free lunch programs at schools and food banks and kitchens. Nutritional programs are not the only way for those on food stamps to feed their families, however. For those physically unable to work, there is the option of obtaining assistance through Social Security disability. For those who are able to work, there is no reason to completely rely on governmental assistance programs to provide for their families.
What Booker and others are doing with these food stamps challenges is attempting to have the supplemental program provide the entirety of their nutritional needs, something the program was never designed to do, nor should it. By participating in these challenges public figures like Booker are making martyrs out of those who rely on an assistance program funded by our tax dollars. While receiving food stamps was once a shameful and embarrassing act, participants are now provided with “EBT” cards which can be quietly swiped into credit card machines at grocery stores and convenience shops. What Booker and other socially conscious activists should be applauding is not those who live on food stamps, but instead those who work their way off of them.