Commentary: Food stamps can make the difference for struggling O.C. families, many of them working

A business in Belle Glade, Fla., offers shoppers the opportunity to use food stamps as part of the federal SNAP program.
(The Washington Post / Getty Images)

Health, education and financial stability require determination and concentration. But who can concentrate when their stomach is growling?

Unfortunately for too many Orange County children and their families, food insecurity is standing in the way of a better life. That is why Orange County United Way urges the House and Orange County’s congressional delegation to place their focus on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

In our state, more than 4.2 million people, including veterans, the disabled, seniors and 2.3 million children are served by SNAP, or CalFresh as it is called in California, according to the Food Research & Action Center’s 2016 data.


This program is a vital, temporary lifeline for people who have jobs, but don’t earn enough to put food on the table.

Research finds that young children whose families receive SNAP are more likely to have regular access to food, be in good health and are at lower risk of developmental delays. Parents who receive this temporary support have less absenteeism and are more productive on the job.

The data bear this out, and so does common sense. None of us are at our best when we are hungry. Those of us who live in a state of hunger don’t have a chance to realize our potential. Simply having food in the fridge creates security. It nourishes more than our bodies; it provides every child with the opportunity to grow into healthy, educated, financially stable and valuable members of our community.

This is the organizing principle behind everything United Way does, and it is achievable with lawmakers’ support.

Now that both the House and Senate farm bills are headed to conference committees for negotiations, we ask the House and Orange County’s congressional delegation to embrace the Senate’s bipartisan provisions that preserve and improve SNAP in the final farm bill conference report. SNAP has a proven track record as one of our nation’s most effective anti-poverty programs and that here in Orange County, in 2015, some 257,750 constituents relied on SNAP for their nutrition.

I urge Congress to work across the aisle to strengthen SNAP and take care of our neighbors in need. No one should go hungry in this bountiful country of ours. All it takes to make a meaningful difference is our focus.

Susan B. Parks is the chief executive officer of Orange County United Way.