Help Protect Idahoan Families

It is no secret that Rexburg is bustling with new, young families. Many of these young parents are enrolled in school or have recently graduated. It’s well known that college students and even recent grads are under or unemployed. It’s programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as food stamps, that can help these young families survive.

Food stamps carry a lot of stigmas. Many people picture food stamp recipients as irresponsible, lazy, and even squandering their money on drugs. Maybe they are.

However, most recipients are honest people caught in the snares of poverty. However, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services, in 2012, Utah spent $64,566 screening 9,581 applicants and administering 838 drug tests for only 29 of them to come back positive. That’s only 0.3% compared to the national average of 9.3% of drug users. Six other states — Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arizona, and Missouri- have spent nearly $1 million enacting similar measures, with the same results. SNAP applicants test positive for drug use at a lower rate than the general population. That being said, drug testing government aid applicants only increases the negative stereotype. Furthermore, people with addictions still deserve assistance in obtaining adequate food if they need it. No person should go hungry.

Many SNAP recipients are military families, elderly people, and children how are carrying the burden of poverty and haunted by the social stigma against them. In Idaho, 56.8% of households receiving SNAP benefits had children under the age of 18. That’s nearly 19,610 families!

My parents applied for food stamps. They are two of the most hardworking people I know. My dad is from St. Anthony, and my mom grew up on a cattle ranch in northern Utah. My dad had just gone back to school at BYU-Provo to get his MBA, and my mom was pregnant. They were merely people who needed a little help to get by.

The House of Representatives’ Farm Bill threatens America’s first line against hunger. It proposes to include strict time limits, limited “categorical eligibility,” and punitive barriers such as barring those who have been previously incarcerated from receiving benefits. These measures would take benefits away from 1 million low-income households, many of whom are working families with young children.

For many of us in Rexburg, these are our peers, friends, neighbors, and families. However, we have the opportunity to make a change. Join me in urging our Congressmen, Rep. Simpson, Sen. Risch, and Sen. Crapo to support a bipartisan Farm bill that protects and strengthens SNAP and Idahoan families.

Ellie Coburn is a RESULTS Real Change Fellow and Senior in International Studies at Brigham Young University-Idaho. She can be reached at ellie.coburn@yahoo.com