116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Opinion / Guest Columnists
Hunger is a low-calorie diet
Feb. 6, 2023 6:00 am
When Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley goes to church, he apparently hears the Biblical injunction to balance the budget. Caring for the least of these or feeding the hungry is pagan, I guess, and certainly not a Republican priority in the Legislature today. I want to help broaden their vision to include a tiny bit of fact and, hopefully, understanding of others’ less affluent lives
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) began in 1933 as part of the New Deal’s Agricultural Administration Act. It helped farmers survive low prices as it helped feed the unemployed and under employed. SNAP saved the economy in rural Iowa and fed otherwise hungry in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, as well. Many recipients today are children, elderly and the disabled. There is a work requirement there today as well.
Now the Legislature wants to limit what SNAP can buy. Their original bill had bizarre limitations: no fresh meat, but canned tuna as a substitute. Brown rice was OK, but white rice was not. Flat sluices of cheddar cheese were verboten. White bread was also forbidden; whole wheat was not. The GOP says the menu has changed. Meat purchases with be permitted, lawmakers said.
Pat Grassley said about SNAP, “It’s these entitlement programs. They’re the ones that are growing within the budget and are putting pressure on us being able to fund other priorities.” What exactly has more priority than eating? What they don’t see clearly, if at all, are the hungry who live in every county in the state. They talk of food stamps with disdain, as sinful “entitlements” for which we are spending too much money. The federal government, not Iowa, pays for 100 percent of SNAP’s food assistance. We split administrative costs 50/50. If Iowa can’t pay that, it cannot afford another mile of farm to market roads or tuition to the wealthy for their private schools.
No county in Iowa is without men, women, and children on food stamps. In Linn County, there are about 25,000 people who depend on SNAP for enough food. They spend over $3 million a year buying groceries here, eating what our famers grow, and keeping people working in grocery stores, warehouses and trucks hauling it all. Statewide we have had about 300,000 people covered each year. If hypocrisy had calories, each conservative member of our legislature would weigh about 367 pounds.
What is especially fascinating to me is that the people who will tell you what you can and cannot eat and what you live on also believe regulating guns that kill is invasive control. People die and they do nothing. People live, but only with guidance from the all-knowing Betty Crockers in the Legislature.
I think they need all the help they can get. I wish I could resurrect Marie Antoniette. I would hope the Republicans would invite the beheaded queen into their caucus. When she said, Let them eat cake, they could respond, “Not on food stamps.”
Hunger should not be treated as a budget, bookkeeping problem. If Pat Grassley doesn’t understand that he ought to resign.
Norman Sherman of Coralville has worked extensively in politics, including as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary, and authored a memoir “From Nowhere to Somewhere.”
Opinion content represents the viewpoint of the author or The Gazette editorial board. You can join the conversation by submitting a letter to the editor or guest column or by suggesting a topic for an editorial to firstname.lastname@example.org