The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) has gotten a lot of attention recently. Unfortunately, not all of the attention has been good, although without SNAP, our communities would be in dire straits.

Many of our citizens in the nation and the state continue to struggle with incomes that don’t always cover the cost of some of the most basic needs, such as food. All of us can agree that when times are tough, we need to come together and support one another. Most of us will need help occasionally and SNAP has been an important part of that equation.

Many people do not realize SNAP is such a common U.S. experience. About half the people in America will receive assistance at some point in their life. The program is widely known as the most effective anti-hunger program in our nation’s history and it works exactly the way it is supposed to.

When economic times are bad or when a natural disaster hits, SNAP participation increases. And when economies improve and communities repair themselves, participation decreases.

Currently, SNAP serves 1-in-5 Oregonians, although the pace of growth has been slowing and soon we will see the numbers decline. This is the natural ebb and flow of the program and one of the biggest strengths of its design.

Each year, our organization produces a report showing SNAP participation across Oregon. It’s vitally important that we understand the relationship between SNAP and local communities.

SNAP has played a critical role in addressing hunger, a problem our state has struggled with for many years. We are still understanding all of the economic drivers of this situation, but until we can get in front of the larger economic concerns, such as high unemployment and the lack of living wage jobs, we need programs such as SNAP to make sure our citizens do not suffer the consequences of hunger.

Many communities may not realize that SNAP also is helping local economies through the infusion of federal dollars. SNAP benefits are funded entirely through the federal government with a small administrative amount funded by the state. SNAP has one of the highest economic multipliers — every dollar in SNAP generates about $1.79 in local economic activity — supporting jobs in local businesses and agriculture. Last year, more than $1 billion entered Oregon’s economy through SNAP.

Sometimes it’s important to remember all the good the program does, and continues to do, for so many Oregon families, local businesses and our state’s economy.

Nancy Weed is the SNAP program manager for the Portland-based Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. The organization’s latest SNAP report can be found at >

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