We’Ced is a youth-led community media project of New America Media. Editor’s Note: In 2009, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits – commonly known as food stamps — by 13.6 percent, as a way to bring relief to struggling Americans during the economic recession. But on November 1 of this year the increase expired, returning SNAP benefits to pre-recession levels. The program cut will affect roughly 4 million Californians, many of them children. Young people with the youth Merced, Calif.-based reporting project We’Ced discussed the importance of food assistance programs in their own lives, and how they foresee the change affecting their families. Natalie Salas: My mother is a single parent looking for work and has little to no family. Without SNAP or EBT we would struggle more than we already do. I would probably start trying to find other ways to help support my family, other than working the little odd jobs I do now. I see people around me who have jobs but still don’t make enough to survive. We read an NPR report that says 3.8 million people will be left without food assistance when the SNAP cuts go through. Just think of all those people that may have to resort to drastic measures to support their families. Alyssa Castro: When I heard about SNAP being reduced, I immediately thought of my 10-year-old niece, my six-year-old nephew and three-year-old niece. My sister supports a family of five with a minimum wage job and the help of food stamps. She already is required to report her income, and on a good month when she’s earned a bit more money, her food stamps are reduced. Thinking of all the other three-year-olds, working mothers or any of the other 3.8 million people that may be affected, is scary. I feel my sister’s family and the people I care about will be greatly affected. I’m not taking into consideration SNAP fraud right now, because I think the amount of fraud is a lot less than the families that truly need it. Benny Escobedo: I believe that the government should cut money, just not from essential life programs. People need food stamps; they need the reassurance in their lives that food will not be a problem. The Declaration of Independence states that people have the right to liberty, life and the pursuit of happiness. Needless to say, we cannot live without food. The government sends so many resources to other countries that they say cannot survive on their own, yet seeks to diminish its own people through cutting SNAP benefits. This is not only inhumane, but also sadistic. As a nation already struggling with poverty, we will have to deal with uncurbed hunger. The cuts do not benefit the people of the United States. Fernando Almaraz: I agree with the SNAP cuts. In the words of Paul Ryan, “This no longer is a safety net, but rather has become a hammock for people to rely on.” The opposing argument is that there are people in our country that rely on the SNAP program for food simply because they don’t have a job. I am not stating that we should let people starve, but rather set tighter restrictions on who can get it and make the cuts needed. To be realistic, there are people taking advantage of these programs and are living off the taxes of American people. I have personally seen people who have gone to purchase groceries with a cart so full that items on their cart seem like they can fall out at any moment, and all they have to do is slide their EBT card. They even buy meat! To make things even better, they drive off in their Cadillacs or relatively new cars. Making matters worse, for the people that really need the assistance, the program may not be offered. When my dad had a heart attack and my mom was the only one working, we sought help and were rejected, even though we are low-income. Yet the very next day we see a man selling his SNAP card for cash, only to purchase alcohol. This needs to end! Lisa Vasquez: With SNAP benefits reduced, my family may experience more food shortages throughout the month. The stamps we get now barely get us through the month — most of our stamps run out by the second or third week. My mom also receives cash aid on her card and that all goes to rent, which doesn’t even cover our rent, let alone our other expenses. My mom has to hustle already to make it through the month and she can’t really get a job because of health and mental issues. Less SNAP benefits will be a big strain on not only my family but other American families as well. Lisbeth Vazquez: With SNAP benefits being cut, my family will be greatly affected. I live in a home with my two brothers and a single mom. My mom has tried looking for jobs but she has only been able to find part time work. That is not enough even though we have food stamps. If we didn’t have food stamps I don’t really know what we would do. All I can picture is us going to live with a family member, because we would not earn a living with my mom’s part time job. Ana Llimet: Most people I know here in Merced get food stamps, including my family. My mom has many health issues and a tumor in her knee. She can’t walk or stand for long so it’s pretty much impossible for her to get a job, plus she can’t read or write. My family depends on food stamps and welfare. Without these benefits, my family would be foodless and possibly homeless. Being in a desperate state brings out a side of people that isn’t pretty. I was once homeless and foodless and desperate. That’s when stealing and drug dealing came in. With SNAP benefits cut, I believe crime will increase. Jjakoba Predmore: My family will be affected by the SNAP cuts. I am the only person in my family that technically “works” and I only make the $120 I bring home every month from We’Ced. My mom’s boyfriend’s parents pay for everything but food, and I feel like if they had to pay for our food, too, they would just stop helping us altogether. All of the kids in the house would be placed in foster care. I know that sounds a bit extreme but I honestly feel like that could be the end result of our food stamps being cut. Deborah Juarez: I don’t agree with the SNAP cuts. I know a few of my peers that get food stamps and depend on it. I remember a friend of mine saying, “I need the food stamps; without them I can’t eat.” She seemed quite grateful to have them, which was weird because most people would be embarrassed about having them. I asked why she was so proud of being on food stamps and she said it was because she “gets to eat, and my mom works hard already paying bills. Food stamps help us get food on the table and gives me lunch to bring to school.” This conversation impacted me because she was the only one of my peers that said that out loud and proud, not caring who heard. Food stamps are a way of helping people survive in this economy, so taking it away from people, up to 3.8 million people, will only lead to a lot of people struggling and starving.