My parents raised me in Huntington Park, California, which was and is known for being one of the most Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles and is part of the East Los Angeles area, but close to South Central. These parts of L.A. are portrayed in films as working-class, mostly African-American and immigrant, and seen as dangerous by residents of north and west L.A.
When I was 13 years old, my mother became pregnant with my sister and became a WIC (Women Infants and Children) beneficiary, which also gave her access to nutrition and breastfeeding classes, and got vouchers for milk, cereal, peanut butter, and other nutritious products. My little sister was born and it turns out that baby formula was expensive as well, but WIC vouchers were there to help us out with our bills. At school, some of my classmates would often talk about having to pick up WIC products with our parents. We’d talk about what cereals we had. We were all also on the free lunch program at school, and a few friends had confided in me that their parents were receiving food stamps or even welfare even though they worked. Things have changed throughout the years.
Trump’s Budget Proposal and its Impact
In March 2017, Trump released a budget proposal that would slash the budget on Women Infants and Children. WIC is a program that provides food vouchers, breast-feeding education, and nutritional support for low-income mothers, pregnant women and children under the age of five. Although the program has had many problems over the years, it became a target for elimination since 2012, when conservatives began working to eliminate it.
Trump’s proposed budget would also remove $193 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The changes would last from 2018 to 2028. In addition to hurting people who may need this program in order to pay for their groceries, retailers are also worried that a reduction in SNAP could hurt their businesses, as working-class families will have less money to spend on food products.
A 2013 statistical brief from the Census Bureau states that 75% of mothers on food stamps also receive other forms of government-provided help that is critical to feeding their children and families. Many who are critical of WIC, SNAP, and other benefits are quick to allege that such benefits discourage work. However, a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that 32% of SNAP beneficiaries had at least one wage earner in the family, and only about 6% of SNAP beneficiaries receive other benefits. A 2014 report called “Hunger in America” found that up to 54% of participant households in their food bank programs included a person that held a job for at least a year. For those with at least one child, the percentage was 70%.
In addition to decreasing funding for programs such as WIC and SNAP, Trump’s budget proposal includes a complete removing the Housing and Urban Development program responsible for Meals on Wheels, a program that ensures the elderly receive hot meals at their home addresses. Even so, Congress is considering decreasing eligibility for some people in order to kick certain people out of SNAP. They have proposed increasing the poverty level from 130% to 200%.
Another group that will be affected by the reduction of SNAP benefits: college graduates. Up to 28% of people who are on food stamps have a college education. Some believe this is the case because of stagnating wages and inflation. Congress still has time to act on or against Trump’s budget proposal, which will have an impact on many in immigrant, working-class communities, and women and children who rely on these important programs.