The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Kass takes House to task for bill to cut food stamps

Sam Kass, assistant White House chef and executive director of Let’s Move, addresses those gathered for today’s “Blessings in a Backpack” event at the Department of Education. (Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report)

In the toughest statement yet from the White House on the House-passed bill to cut $39 billion from food stamps over 10 years, Sam Kass, the assistant White House chef who is executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, today called the cut “unconscionable.”

At an Education Department event to fill backpacks for low-income children to take home for weekend, Kass said “That we would try to cut a program that is just keeping people afloat, just making sure their basic needs are being met to the tune of $40 billion — that is simply unconscionable in this great nation. We know we can do better. We know we have to do better. There has got to be better places to save some money.”

Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon, left, and Let’s Move executive director Sam Kass help fill backpacks for low-income school children to take home for the weekend. (Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report)

Kass also noted that he was there to represent the first lady and praised the “Blessings in a Backpack” program that sponsored the event.

President Barack Obama’s position in his budget is that there should be no cuts to food stamps, and the Office of Management and Budget released a statement that if the House bill were to reach the point of passing both the House and the Senate, the president's advisers would recommend that he veto it.

But the president, first lady and other White House officials have personally stayed out of the battle until now.

Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon noted that 21 million of the 33 million children who eat school lunch get free or reduced price meals because their families are low-income, but that those children also need the food in the backpacks for the weekend.

Concannon also noted there are 47 million people on food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., called the food stamp vote in the House last week “unbelievable” and noted that it would also “jeopardized” some children’s access to free and reduced price lunches.

Of the backpack program, Schakowsky said, “This is who are in the United States.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., called the food stamp vote “morally and ethically” wrong.

The event was hosted by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.