Emails, J.C. Dwyer, senior director of policy and communications, Celia Cole, ceo, Feeding Texas, June 2, 2015

11:13 a.m.

The Census press release clearly says that one in five children receives SNAP benefits. SNAP (what used to be called the Food Stamps Program) is a household benefit, but is calculated based on the number of eligible individuals in the household. The resulting benefits are provided to help feed these eligible individuals, and so the wording of the Census press release ("children receive") is more technically accurate than Governor Perry's statement. Policy-makers recognize there is no practical way to ensure this, since grocery shopping is typically done for a full household, not an individual. But there are certainly instances where the only eligible members of a household are children, and in these cases it is more accurate to state that the children receive the benefit, not the household (although since the children are members of the household, both are technically true).


As a small side note, "household" is defined by the program as the people with whom the applicant regularly shares food and other resources. This is usually synonymous with "family," but not always.


The only reason I'm digging into this difference is that I suspect Perry's wording is intentional. Although I can't find his original statement, I imagine he is making a negative point about either the state of the economy or the character of the adults in these families. The children in his statement are not cast as recipients themselves, they are merely innocents "living in a family" that suffers from from the affliction of SNAP receipt. His implication is that the SNAP benefits are symptoms of a larger problem, not a solution to the problem, and that we should help these children by changing their surrounding circumstances. His wording cannot admit that as the recipients of SNAP benefits, the children are already being helped.


Finally, and this is a smaller point, we find the use of the term "food stamps" misleading, since the program hasn't been called this since 2008. We realize lots of people still think of the program under this name, and the media uses it interchangeably with SNAP. But the point is an important one as the benefits are no longer issued via "stamps." Actual paper food stamps are historical relics in the Smithsonian at this point. All benefits have been issued via state-issued debit cards for several years now, and the continued use of the word "stamps" (particularly when the program is being cast as a problem, not a solution) affects public perception of the program's efficacy vis-à-vis fraud, payment accuracy etc.


2) Second, how Texas stacks up / prior years:

Just to be clear, Feeding Texas is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and is prohibited from endorsing political candidates. Nothing in the above should be construed as an endorsement or critique of Perry's candidacy, only of his statement. Let us know if you need a direct quote or anything else!



(Celia Cole)

12:26 p.m.

"Governor Perry is right:  SNAP is an important benefit for millions of Texas families.  The primary reason that so many more Texans and their children receive SNAP, compared to the rest of the nation, is our relatively high poverty rates.  One in six households are food insecure as a result.  Fortunately, SNAP is a proven benefit to prevent hunger, help families out of poverty, and connect struggling Texans with jobs.  All of which benefits Texas in the form of reduced health and education costs and a stronger economy.  Without SNAP, our food insecurity rates would be much higher, exacting a far greater toll on individuals and communities."