September 2018 U.S. Poverty Action

September 4, 2018

Generate Media to Protect SNAP

The future of SNAP is in question. Let’s get it in the headlines.

As the U.S. Census Bureau prepares to release its latest poverty data, Congress is negotiating a final farm bill, and SNAP (formerly food stamps) is hanging in the balance. This month, use the media to say to Congress: don’t take food off the table of people struggling to get by.

Every morning on Capitol Hill, congressional staff pore over the local newspaper to see what’s on the minds of their constituents. With midterm elections only a couple of months away, they’re paying even closer attention. Make sure that when they open up that paper this month, they see a clear call to action to protect SNAP.

Earlier this summer, the House passed a farm bill that would take away SNAP benefits from one million households, even those with school-age kids. This bill was such bad policy that the Senate ignored it, and instead passed their own bipartisan farm bill that protects SNAP. This is great news, but now the House and the Senate have to come together to negotiate a final bill.

We need to remind lawmakers that SNAP helps more than 40 million people in this country put food on the table. Most able-bodied adults on SNAP already work and a full two-thirds of recipients are children, seniors, and people with disabilities. We know that kids who have enough to eat are healthier, do better in school, and have improved economic outcomes as adults. Making harmful changes and cuts won’t help anyone find a job or move out of poverty – it will just make people hungry.

Send a letter to the editor to your local paper urging your member of Congress to protect SNAP in the farm bill

Clippings from the local paper land on the desks of members of Congress every morning. And when the issue covered in the paper directly affects their constituents – or is active on Capitol Hill right in that moment – they take special note. The threats against SNAP meet both criteria, which makes this a key time to write.

Never written a letter to the editor before? Check out these basics.

One trick to getting your letter published is a good “hook” – referencing a story that’s already been in the paper, and making the substance of your letter more newsworthy. The new Census data set for release on September 12 is one example, but don’t wait around. Look for any story that you could somehow tie back to your goal of protecting nutrition assistance. Whether it’s a story about the elections, a local restaurant, or a local poverty issue, scan your paper or its website to find a hook that works for you.

Here are some tips to improve your chances of getting published.

  • Make it personal. Members of Congress aren’t looking for form letters — they’re looking to really hear from their constituents. Make sure you tell them why you care. If you have personal experience with SNAP, be sure to include it.
  • Make it local. Remind Congress that SNAP matters to the people who voted them into office. Include local data. And mention your member of Congress by name.
  • Make it timely. Show the newspaper editor that this is urgent: reference a recent story, or call out that Congress could be voting soon. This can’t wait around.
  • Make sure you submit it. The #1 reason someone’s letter to the editor doesn’t get published? They never submit it. Hitting “send” is the scariest part of publishing a letter – but it’s by far the most important.

Remember, the best letters are the ones that come straight from the heart. But you can use our template to get you started.

To the editor:

Just as school let out in June, the House of Representatives took a vote that would make it harder for more than a million low-income families to put food on the table. They proposed draconian new requirements for SNAP (what we used to call “food stamps”) in their version of the farm bill. Fortunately the Senate chose a different path, with a bipartisan bill that protects SNAP.

Now as school is back in session here, members of Congress are back in Washington, negotiating the final version of that bill. I hope I can count on them to do the right thing, following the Senate’s lead in protecting a program that helps over 40 million people put food on the table. Making cuts or changes to SNAP won’t help anyone find work or move out of poverty – it will just make people hungry.

[Your name]

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