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The current House farm bill, which in a break from tradition was crafted only by Republicans, proposes changes to the food stamp program that are downright obscene.

First, it requires food stamp recipients to re-prove their eligibility every month. Many recipients are single mothers, strapped for time and money, whose lives are chaotic enough — with child care unreliable, landlords demanding rent, and irregular work hours as, say, a waitress — that they won't be able to do this every month. Also, recipients must prove they're working, or participating in qualified job-training programs, 20 hours every week. If that waitress's boss cuts her hours one week, if that mom gets sick or her child care falls through and she misses some hours, if she doesn't fill out the necessary paperwork correctly every month, if one job training program ends and there's not another one lined up the very next week — she can lose eligibility. And here's the thing: If someone loses their eligibility, even for one single month, they can be kicked off food stamps —perhaps making their children go hungry — for a whole year.

The bureaucracy needed to confirm eligibility every month will be so costly — for new staff, offices, computer systems, etc. — that the proposed change doesn't even save much money, if any. Millions of people will get kicked off food stamps for nothing. The whole change seems designed just to deny families food. But to me, simply keeping our kids fed should be really high on the list of things we aim for as Americans.

Dave Mellinger

Corvallis (May 23)

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