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Tuesday, December 03, 2013


by Lauren Schmidt

Photo by James Mollison, via NPR,  from his book Where Children Sleep: Portraits From Around The World. Alyssa, an only child, lives with her parents in Kentucky, in Appalachia — a beautiful, mountainous region that is also one of the poorest parts of America. Their small, shabby house, heated only by a wooden stove, is falling apart. Alyssa's grandmother, uncle and orphaned cousin live close by.

At the start of [November 2013], low income recipients of SNAP throughout the country experienced a reduction in their SNAP benefits due to the expiration of a temporary increase provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to help families through a difficult economic period. A family of four saw their SNAP benefits fall by $36 a month, or 5 percent, as a result of this change. All SNAP recipients were affected, including nearly 22 million children (10 million of whom live in “deep poverty,” with family incomes below half of the poverty line) and 9 million people who are elderly or have a disability. Additionally, nearly 900,000 veterans and 5,000 active duty service members experienced benefit reductions, according to estimates by the Center on Budget and Policy
Priorities. --- White House Report, November 2013

Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014.”

                                                —Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, August 2, 2013

The sound a whip makes on the hide of a steed—SNAP!—
to keep the needy in need, enough to believe: SNAP.

They just changed the name, “Food Stamps” to “Assistance.”
An Act renamed to stay the same. The “reconceived” SNAP.

Not Recover as in restore, but cover again.
Not Act as in action, but as in make-believe: SNAP.

To remove all the shame, the stigma of need.
To say no blood in bleeding when skin has been cleaved: SNAP.

Instead of stamps, plastic cards, what the public sees,
but separate bundles at the checkout, the public is peeved: SNAP.

Because EBTs don’t cover diapers or cleaners,
or soaps or toilet paper or Christmas Eve: SNAP.

In 2014, only $1.40 per mouth per meal.
A heavy burden for young mothers to heave: SNAP.

This is a poet’s plea to Senator Reid.
Benefits will bleed.  It’s time we all grieve the SNAP.

Lauren Schmidt is the author of three collections of poetry: Two Black Eyes and a Patch of Hair Missing; The Voodoo Doll Parade, selected for the Main Street Rag Author’s Choice Chapbook Series; and Psalms of The Dining Room, a sequence of poems about her volunteer experience at a soup kitchen in Eugene, Oregon. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as North American Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Rattle, Nimrod, Fifth Wednesday Journal, New York Quarterly, Bellevue Literary Review and The Progressive.  Her awards include the So to Speak Poetry Prize, the Neil Postman Prize for Metaphor, and the Bellevue Literary Review’s Vilcek Prize for Poetry. Schmidt is an Instructor of Development Reading and Writing at Passaic County Community College and she volunteer teaches creative writing at a transitional house for homeless mothers.