My friend Todd Littleton posted a great interview (as well as some of his own thoughts) with Ryan Abernathy, Senior Director of Programs and Nutrition at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, concerning government services such as food stamps (SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), other services, and the church’s role with those in poverty. Todd’s post also links to another two part interview with Ryan entitled “Facts About American Poverty” (part 1 and part 2) over at Marty Duren’s Kingdom in the Midst blog.
I highly encourage you to read all three of those posts and listen to the podcast. Here are some snippets of the latter:
“…SNAP [food stamp] cheats should be caught. People who are selling their benefits and who are trafficking in food stamps should be caught and should be prosecuted. But the USDA identified this problem in the 80s, and they have worked 30 plus years…to clean the program up. It is one of the few government programs that is the very model of efficiency. It does exactly what is intended to do, and it really, really does it well.
And, to be really honest with you, I was a skeptic when I started here [at the Regional Food Bank]…I also thought that food stamps were something that was highly abused…now when I’m in line behind somebody that’s using an EBT (the Electronic Benefits Card, because they don’t do the stamps anymore but they use something that is more akin to a credit card, for people to be able to pay for stuff), I know that more than likely—if they are not a child or not a senior adult—it’s probably somebody who is busting their butt to make a living and is having to rely on food stamps for short period of time to be able to make up the gap. Because most people aren’t on food stamps forever…”
From Todd’s attached print article:
“According to statistics, the rate of abuse among those receiving SNAP, the old Food Stamps, is 1.3%. Read that one more time. Abernathy provides a better illustration. That is $.01, or one penny, per dollar.”
And here is another quote from Ryan:
“So many of our churches [today] are middle-class or upper-middle-class enclaves, where people who struggle financially do not feel incredibly welcome…[as we engage the issues of poverty] we can’t be talking badly or poorly about people who are on government benefits, who are receiving help through food stamps, or TANF (which is Temporary Aid for Needy Families], or are on Sooner Care…instead of talking poorly about those folks, [we should] encourage those people who are on those programs: ‘Hey, you’re only on here for a season, and we are going to work with you and help you so you can earn and take care of your own money’, and restoring some pride and dignity to people are are in poverty—and beginning to do that from the pulpit.”
Want to do something in response?
You can make a difference by donating and/or volunteering with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. You can also organize your friends, neighbors, and churches to engage and advocate for those struggling with poverty in your area. There are likely many local opportunities to serve, wherever you are. If not, create them.
Related Reading Resources: