Fox News' Varney Attacks Government For Feeding Children

Fox News' Stuart Varney ignored the recent economic crisis to attack the Obama administration for increased enrollment in food security programs that help feed children and keep many Americans out of poverty.

On the July 9 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney accused the Obama administration of transforming “America from a dynamic prosperous growth economy into a bureaucracy that redistributes wealth.” Varney claimed that increased enrollment in a variety of food security programs -- including those that are intended to help low-income women and children who were found to be at nutritional risk -- was a sign of economic failure, claiming that “101 million Americans currently receive some kind of food aid from the federal government”:

VARNEY: That's an extraordinary situation. You've got nearly 47 million on food stamps. That's one in six of the population. You've got 32 million getting school lunches, free or at virtually no cost. 10 Million get school breakfast free or at virtually no cost. Women, infants, and children, the WIC program, 8 million there. The milk and summer food program goes to 2 million people. Farmers' market coupons are given away to nearly 2 million women and children. 

Varney's focus on the number of people receiving food assistance misses the point: these programs succeed in helping to alleviate hunger and poverty for millions of Americans, including children.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, kept millions of people “out of poverty in 2011, including 2.1 million children," while lifting more children above 50 percent of the poverty line than any other benefit program. The school lunch, breakfast, and summer food programs provide free or reduced price meals to children who live in households with incomes below the federal poverty level, and are critical for reducing child hunger. According to research highlighted by Michigan State University, child food insecurity is “associated with significantly poorer cognitive functioning, decreased school attendance, or diminished academic achievement.” Finally, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program and the Farmer's Market Nutrition Program protect low-income mothers and children under the age of five who are assessed to be at nutritional risk by providing them with access to affordable, healthy food.

In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 16.7 million children. According to Feeding America, a domestic hunger-relief charity, “households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children,” and 36.8 percent of households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average were headed by single mothers.

Research has shown that children born to low-income women who had access to food stamps grew up with better health outcomes than those who did not have access to the program, and a 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that SNAP benefits reduced the “prevalence, depth, and severity” of poverty between 2000 and 2009. The USDA also found that the positive effects of SNAP were especially strong during the recession, which Varney ignored. According to the Congressional Budget Office, over 65 percent of the growth in SNAP benefits from 2007 to 2011 could be attributed to the weak economy.

As the economy improves, SNAP spending as a share of GDP is projected to shrink to 1995 levels by 2019. But Varney hid that positive indicator in favor of continuing Fox's campaign to demonize these programs that reduce child hunger and keep children out of poverty. Fox News has previously asked if children should have to work for their school meals, and Fox News host Andrea Tantaros celebrated Thanksgiving by mocking food security programs as a diet plan