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By Staff | Oct 26, 2012

A good subscriber sent me the following e-mail: “Mr. Kruse, The SNAP program is out of control and wasteful. I will give you a couple of examples why.

“If you talk with any school administrators, over 50 percent of the kids in our rural communities qualify for school lunch discounts. With the prosperity we are seeing in our rural regions, there is absolutely no way that that many people should qualify.

“To qualify, your income only needs to be less than $50,000 per year. This level is way too high in my opinion. When we signed the boys up this fall, the school was telling everyone to apply for the program. We refused, but this type of advertising of a welfare program is wrong, since it saps dollars from people that really need it.

“Another glaring example is the fact that the USDA actually provides funding for advertising the food stamp program, commercials on TV… once again, a horribly broken system, sapping resources from the needy. SNAP is broken and needs to be fixed to preserve it for the future.”

As luck would have it, my daughter, Megan, happens to be in the business, working as a school counselor for the Des Moines public school system. She provided me with a number of resources.

The first was that she makes under $50k, and her daughter is not eligible for SNAP. The 2012 poverty guidelines are $23,050 for a family of four. According to the WSJ income ranking, 29 percent earn less than that.

The Census Bureau said that the way they keep statistics, 15 percent or approximately 46.2 million Americans live in poverty, so 44.7 million people received food stamps in 2011. That means that there are still some Americans living in poverty who don’t take food stamps.

We keep hearing that the food stamp system is out of control. If there were more people on food stamps than living in poverty that might be a true statement, but the data suggests that it is just political rhetoric.

That political rhetoric was used, however, to justify not passing the House farm bill despite that it cut billions from food stamp spending.

My subscriber was focused on the school lunch program. My wife said that she too was asked about our income eligibility for subsidized school meals when she registered our 12-year-old for school this fall. However, it was not phrased as “pushing us,” she felt it was a matter of making sure that everyone who did register, including those who do qualify and need it, were aware of that option.

Megan tells me that they ask everyone whoenrolls as standard operating procedure. Do we want kids hungry at school? Educators want kids to learn and hunger gets between them and that objective.

The school lunch programs make total sense to me. Don’t confuse seeing to the needs of the children with advertising welfare. That may strike high income people as being unnecessary, but putting it nicely, I think they are wrong.

I don’t know if this is the time to bring up Jesus here, but I think that he would sign off on the income guidelines, too. This whole idea that food stamp recipients and school lunch programs are a burden on society dragging the country down as some conservatives are now presenting the situation doesn’t wash with me.

The reason why food stamp participation surged was not a change in eligibility – it was due to the worst recession since the Great Depression.

“My goodness, what would you expect given the economic conditions?” My daughter said that just in her little portion of the school world, the requests for assistance surged as a result of job losses. Multiply this by the nation’s needs.

My daughter contributed, “Many times, children from low-income families may have not had any meal since the previous day’s school lunch. If the federal government did not step in to feed lower income students lunch, we would inevitably see a decline in student achievement and increase in behavioral incidents across the board nationally.

“I currently work in an inner city school, where we are at 100 percent free and reduced lunch. Every student that walks through the door is eligible for a free breakfast and lunch daily. Without this basic need being met, our students would not be able to come to school ready to learn, and thus not be able to compete academically with the more well-fed and higher-median income families in our district.

“Although this was never anyone’s vision of the role of the education system in its student’s lives, out of shear necessity and evolution, it has had to stepping into the non-traditional role and the parenting realm, with feeding its poorest students and thus teaching more than academics, but basic survival and life skills.”

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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