[Video] Future cuts, tougher restrictions on food stamps spark debate

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - A bitter fight in Washington over food stamps has left Republicans and Democrats far from the same table.

In Minnesota, a bill that passed the Republican-controlled House has created worries that the food shelves that feed Minnesota's hungry will soon be crowded with more friends in need.

Shellie Sandford says health troubles forced her to retire and as a single parent with little savings, she was forced to turn to food stamps, a program now called SNAP.

"I know for sure I do not have a sense of entitlement," she said. "I don't believe I should sit back and not do anything and have somebody take care of me. I worked all my life. I worked hard."

Food stamps are traditionally part of the federal farm bill, a bill that has Congress deeply divided.

[See video of this report HERE]

House Republicans voted to cut $39 billion from the program in the next decade, while toughening work requirements for those who use it.

The bill passed 217 to 210 without a single Democratic vote. Some lawmakers argued the nation can no longer afford SNAP at the cost of $80 billion a year, while others worry about people abusing government benefits.

"You can no longer sit on your couch or ride a surf board like Jayson in California and expect the taxpayer to feed you," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp in reference to a story of a surfer using food stamps to buy sushi.

"Fraud in SNAP is miniscule, especially since it's been electronic. It's really effective," argued Sen. Al Franken.

Franken and Rep. Betty McCollum say cuts could be catastrophic for the 1 in 10 Minnesotans who rely on SNAP.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services says more than half of the people on SNAP are children. The agency says stricter eligibility requirements would drop about 10 percent of seniors from the program.

"(It) means more seniors will have less access to healthy foods. As we heard, it helps them manage their diabetes, their chronic heart disease, which makes them healthier but also saves on the Medicare," McCollum argued.

"Thirty-two thousand Minnesotans, most of them children and seniors, will lose access to SNAP which means they will  have a hard time finding healthy food at the end of the month," said Lucinda Jesson, commissioner of the Minn. Department of Human Services.

Hunger Free Minnesota says the recession left more people in need and across the state food shelves are struggling to keep up.

"Imagine the stress in your mind if you are trying to figure out where to get that next meal and what SNAP does is give a relative ocean of calmness for at least some portion of the month," said Colleen Moriarity, Executive Director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota.

Rolanda Collins comes to the Brooklyn Center CEAP food shelf when her SNAP benefits can't stretch any further.

"I was recently notified that they would try to be ending it, which would cause a lot of hardship on a lot of parents. A lot of children would suffer from that," Collins said.

Collins is raising children and grandchildren on just her income. As a diabetic, she says the healthy foods she needs cost more. Her message for lawmakers considering these cuts is simple.

"If you never been on it and needed it, how can you judge it?" she said.

All three Minnesota Republican representatives, Michele Bachmann, John Kline and Erik Paulsen voted for the cuts.

Only 15 republicans voted against the bill, which now goes to the Senate.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Designed & Built by Tall Grass Digital LLC