By Daniel Greenhalgh, Manhattan
September 3, 2016

In July you reminded us – in “Kansas lags on hunger efforts” — that our state’s summer feeding programs are ranked among the worst in the nation. Fortunately, the 134,000 Kansas kids living in poverty are starting school, where free and reduced-cost meals await them. But this isn’t enough — for too many children, evenings and weekends are spent on an empty stomach.

I write to you as someone who grew up in poverty, outraged that we allow our young people to suffer in this way. At 2 years old, I was eating food from a garbage can. Sometimes, after school, I wouldn’t have a home of my own to go to. School lunches and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), for me, were some of the only consistent parts of my childhood.

Recently, in a dogma-over-data approach to poverty, House Speaker Paul Ryan proposed block-granting SNAP to turn over the program’s federal funding to the states. Our Kansas legislators, with their low aspirations for the poor, have shown us why this is a bad idea: Kansas left $53 million in federal cash welfare funds — meant to help poor Kansas families — unspent in 2014, while over 50,000 Kansas kids lived in deep poverty. Do we really want to give states like Kansas the opportunity to mangle SNAP in this way?

Science has shown that children who have access to food assistance are healthier and do better in school. SNAP, for me, put food on the table as a young child. Today, I’m a physics student at Kansas State University, and a living testament to the importance of investing in the health of our most vulnerable children. I urge Sens. Roberts and Moran and Reps. Jenkins, Pompeo, Yoder and Huelskamp to stand up against any attempt to block-grant SNAP, in order to protect Kansas kids.

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