It’s the Dream to move to America, pull oneself up by the bootstraps through hard work and dedication, and eventually get to an ultimate, desired destination. It’s the Dream to provide for a family, have a safe and comfortable home, and to be considered one of the people.

When people are in desperate situations and have to focus on mere survival, they are not able to focus on what is best for them and what is best for survival. When the individuals of a country are failing, the country fails. Because of this consequence, most countries that are able to provide some sort of welfare system for their citizens do so– for example, Norway provides health care, disability beneits, survivors benefits, etc. In the United States, this welfare program includes food stamps, subsidized and public housing, childcare subsidies, unemployment benefits, and Medicaid, to name a few. It’s important to examine these in detail to analyze whether or not these benefit society or drain taxpayer money.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, gives people with low incomes assistance in buying food. It allows the person with the food stamps to use them at grocery stores on most things, except nonfood items, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, vitamins and medicine, any food that’s eaten in the store, and hot foods. These limitations are set so that those with food stamps do not spend their money on things other than feeding their family.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people who don’t have their biological needs taken care of cannot focus on anything else besides securing those needs until they’ve been fulfilled. The logical implication means that people cannot focus on their safety needs, feelings of belongingness and love, self esteem, or self actualization until they’re well fed.

To become a contributing member of society, a citizen must give back to the community. People often do this by getting a job, raising families, volunteering, and so on. People are not able to focus on doing these things well — or even at all — unless they are fed. Hunger is an all-consuming feeling. When hungry, a person can’t focus on their job or their schoolwork. If a child can’t focus on his or her schoolwork for a sustained period of time, getting behind in school is inevitable, simply because of the inability to focus both in class and on homework. Furthermore, hungry children are at risk of developmental and behavioral problems. Hungry children are much more likely to have academic problems in reading and arithmetic. Their test scores are often lower for word identification, passage comprehension, and arithmetic tests. 

America’s schools are falling behind globally. The problem with American schoolchildren isn’t that they’re all testing poorly — some are testing very well, and some are testing very poorly, bringing the average down. Obviously, some schools are doing much better than others. Schools in wealthy areas are better funded and can provide better educations to their students, but these students are also coming to class prepared. They’re not showing up on test days without food in their stomachs.

One way America can work to improve its test scores is to attempt to make it that no students are showing up to class hungry. Students will be less likely to have developmental, behavioral, or educational problems, and they’ll be able to focus on their work in and out of school if they don’t have to worry about basic survival.

Food stamps work to provide this food. By giving money to low income families, parents can give their children full, nutritious meals. These students are then able to focus on other things, like getting an education and learning to socialize properly. Once they grow, those skills will be valuable in getting a job that will allow them to continue feeding themselves and their families.
Many Americans enjoy the saying “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” Food stamps aren’t just giving the man a fish for a day. Food stamps give the man the ability to learn to fish.

Unfortunately, food stamps can be used other than in ways they’re intended to be used. Parents can spend all their money on soda and chips instead of vegetables and meat. This is not a reason to cut the food stamps program, though — it’s a reason to enforce more regulations. The USDA, which runs the food stamps program, has been working to encourage people to buy nutritious foods. A program within the larger food stamps program is only for expecting and new mothers. This WIC (Woman-Infant-Child) program specifies what food is to be bought, such as milk, cheese, cereal, and fruit, as opposed to just giving a block of money to the recipient. By specifying what can be bought, food stamps are sure to be used the way they were intended — to provide adequate nutrition to those who are desperate for it.

Regulation is key — not cuts to the program. Hunger takes control of people’s lives. Food stamps can put them in charge again. Low income people are able to provide for their families and progress on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs so that they are able to become contributing members of society. By bringing low income citizens up to living decently, a society helps itself.

In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food-insecure households. That’s 16% of the population. A country can’t thrive with numbers like that.

Emma Connell

Class of 2014 at Concordia College. Majoring in Political Science and Philosophy. Involved in Student Government and, of course, The Concordian.

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