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The demand by House Republicans that funding for food stamps be slashed while we're at the tail end of the Great Recession is beyond comprehension.

But apparently it is not beyond comprehension if you are among those who believe that food stamp recipients are abusing the system and stuffing their shopping carts with sodas and candy. That is, when they're not at McDonald's buying Happy Meals and french fries.

Such is the opinion of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who said during a June Senate debate on the issue: "We're giving it for junk food, and we're giving it to go to McDonald's and it's got to stop."

Paul is right about one thing. There is not an endless supply of money for an ever-expanding program, but chopping food stamps now is the wrong thing to do.

The debate over food stamps has held up a new five-year Farm Bill to replace the one that expires on Sept. 30. The food stamp program would continue if the deadline is missed but other programs affecting America's farmers would be in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the food stamp program, which provides critically needed food for the poor, is going through an excruciating examination.

House Republicans want the program cut by $1.6 billion a year, while the Senate has passed a Farm Bill that cuts about $400 million a year from food stamps. As Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said, that's still far too much, but better than the House bill.

The bill recently passed by the House Agriculture Committee would cut spending by tightening eligibility requirements. That would not be a bad idea when times are good, but until the economy creates more jobs, such a drastic cut is intolerable.

Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, makes the valid point that this country is dealing with a crippling national debt and that he's willing to compromise so that the deserving poor are protected. Certainly there are ways to trim expenses without hurting the truly needy. But gutting a program that feeds people when jobs are scarce isn't the answer. That will add up to a lot of empty cupboards.

The food stamp program has increased in spending for a reason. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 65 percent of the growth in that spending in the past four years can be blamed on the weak economy, 20 percent on higher benefits included in the 2009 bill, and the rest to other factors.

A good question to House Republicans determined to cut a program that feeds people is this: how many hungry faces do you come across in a day? According to the Obama administration, 3 million people would lose their food stamp benefits under their proposal.

Here in Buffalo Niagara that adds up to about 11,500 people out of the 180,343 who received the benefit in June.

That's a lot of Americans who might go hungry.