Commentary, In the community

Letters: SNAP benefits aid most vulnerable citizens

– From Eddie Melendrez, Ontario

To the Editor:

I am a husband, father, and son of Mexican migrant workers from Texas. My rich history is ingrained into the very fabric of this great region. I’m also a city councilor, president of the Mexican American Citizens League, community organizer, artist, boxing coach, mentor, and community builder. I care for this community and its residents as much as they have shown care for me. 

Malheur County has historically dealt with high rates of poverty to only have that need grow with the pandemic. I write this letter because of the threat to SNAP. 

Recently I received a letter from Congressman Bentz thanking me for showing support for those folks most impacted by food insecurity. What followed gave me pause, Bentz went on to speak to proposed cuts to SNAP. Followed by statements such as “Congress should support assistance programs that benefit the truly needy” and “Unfortunately, some people who aren’t truly eligible for help take advantage of these programs.” Then the letter goes on to speak to our growing debt which “now stands at $31 trillion.” While I wholeheartedly understand fiscal responsibilities to our country, I have a few thoughts about Congressmen Bentz’ statements. 

What gives me pause is statements such as “truly needy” and “take advantage.” Words such as “truly needy” remind me of code words that eventually negatively impact people of color.  Consider that 34 million people, including more than 9 million children, faced hunger in 2021. Latinos, Native Americans, Blacks, and Pacific Islanders are 2-3 times more likely to live in food-insecure households than white people. 

I don’t understand or agree with the reasoning for reducing SNAP which supports those folks most in need. Congress must strengthen critical nutrition programs in the next farm bill to help seniors, families, children, active military members, and more. 

In closing, more folks should be upset and prepared for these possible cuts to SNAP before it’s too late. If cuts need to be made to our national budget, it should not be to the SNAP program that serves our most vulnerable and in need.

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