To paraphrase a saying from Dr. Cornel West, casseroles are what love looks like in public.
I discovered this first-hand when I was seven years old, right after my father died unexpectedly and suddenly. Through all the confusion and strangeness in the days following his death, one of the things that stuck out to me was neighbors showing up at our door with casseroles. Lots of casseroles.
It was a ritual that I had never seen before as a child, but that I now know to be intuitive to most Americans from all backgrounds and faiths. When there’s a death in a neighbor’s family or when they’re facing an urgent medical situation, we show up with food. Casseroles and other prepared dishes are something concrete — not just a meaningful gesture — that we can offer friends in need of support when facing struggles beyond their control.
This community impulse, to help others when they’re facing adversity or loss, is one that our nation should personify on a grand scale. Research shows that Americans value community and economic security, and that nearly 16 percent of Americans struggle to put food on their table.
That is why public services like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or “food stamps” are so important. Families facing economic insecurity need sustained support while they get back on their feet. Charitable efforts like food banks (or even casseroles) aren’t enough to meet this need.
President Trump wants to slash SNAP, the nation’s largest food assistance program that feeds 42 million people in the United States. A new proposed rule would jeopardize food assistance for thousands of Americans by making it even harder for unemployed and underemployed workers to access SNAP when they have trouble finding steady work.
The rule could let states impose further reporting requirements on Americans who already struggle to provide for their families. This reporting could mean more check-in appointments with government officials and more online forms that are difficult for people without easy access to the internet. What families don’t need right now is additional punitive reporting that takes time away from their job searches.
We don’t ask our neighbors or friends to show us medical records when bad things happen. Instead, we offer support in good faith, knowing that the families often need time to sort out their difficult situations. Similarly, we must challenge this new proposed rule, a rule based on stereotypes and discriminatory practices — like so many other barriers to economic opportunity.
Families facing economic hardship, including SNAP recipients, need time and resources to secure jobs that provide livable wages and regular hours. It is the responsibility of our society to bolster economic opportunity and eliminate poverty without stigmatizing those affected by it. Rather than stigmatize families, we can focus on policies that actually help workers get ahead — such as raising the minimum wage, helping employees afford child care, and continuing to support SNAP.
Now is the time for us to remind the Trump administration of the community values we share as a nation. Take a few minutes to leave a comment protesting the proposed rule for SNAP on platforms from Center for American Progress, FRAC, and Feeding America before the April 2 deadline. Because everyone struggling deserves a good casserole.