With Christmas less than one week away, many of us turn to our thoughts to those whose Christmas celebrations might be meager to nonexistent without a helping hand.
In the vestibule of my church, there are tables overflowing with toys and clothes for families in need. I hear and see the Salvation Army bell ringers at my local grocery store. It is a time of hope and promise for many of us. As someone born on Christmas Day, the holiday has an added personal element, too.
Growing up in poverty whenever the Rankin-Bass “Little Drummer Boy” show would broadcast, I felt an affinity for the title character. The lyrics, “I am a poor boy too” resonated with me. Jesus too was born into poverty, just like me and my siblings. I took special solace in that fact.
While I still look forward to the Christmas season and for the time of relaxation and opportunities to reconnect with friends and families, I cannot ignore the continued assault on food stamps and free school lunches from the Trump administration.
With Washington, D.C. and much of the country fixated on the Impeachment proceedings, new stories describing initiatives and potential executive orders illustrate the willingness of the White House to truly care for the least of our brothers and sisters.
Matthew 25:40-45 are among my favorite New Testament passages for their eloquent articulation of what I see at the heart of the Christian gospel. “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. ... Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
As a child growing up, I benefited from both the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the free school lunch program. My mother did not have to worry about providing a lunch for me and my siblings. And despite the constant empty rhetoric, these programs did not make us dependent on these and other welfare programs.
According to a New York Times story, with the latest proposed changes to SNAP, up to 8,000 families might lose their benefits altogether and 19% of families would have their benefits reduced. This is on top of changes proposed this past summer that could result in nearly 3 million people losing their aid.
With current policies, many students on SNAP automatically receive free school lunches. Nearly 30 million children receive free or reduced-price lunches. Nearly 14 million of these students attend schools where the entire school receives free meals. Under these latest Trump Administration proposals, 9.9 million students would be impacted by changes to SNAP; 40,000 students would lose this benefit altogether.
Nearly a million would lose this automatic benefit and approximately 445,000 families would have to reapply for formerly automatic benefits.
Some of these proposals claim that loopholes exist showing disparity in benefits from state-to-state. However, many of these formulas for determining eligibility for these SNAP benefits are connected to estimated utility costs. Because many dependent families live in cold weather climates, they do have to spend more money paying for heat.
I can only imagine a single-mother like my own having to choose between food and electricity.
We can do better for the least among us.
Nicolas Shump is a longtime educator and writer in northeast Kansas. He can be reached at email@example.com.