Acy Cummings, a 55-year-old tenant farmer from North Carolina, didn't bring statistics and eloquent statements to Washington yesterday to support his position.
Neither did Mary Anna Minger, a 60-year-old North Carolinian who said she has been living on $198 a month.
But by all accounts, Cummings and Minger were the star witnesses at a House hearing on legislation designed to reform the nation's food stamp program, which is scheduled to expire Sept.30.
Part of that legislation, sponsored by Rep. Frederick R. Richmond (D-N.Y.), would eliminate the so-called purchase requirement. This would no increase the benefits of households already on the food stamp rolls, but would remove an obstacle that prevents many needy families from participating, according to Richmond.
A similar bill was introduced March 1 by Sens. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and George McGovern (D-S.D.). The Carter administration is also considering such a proposal.
Cummings and Minger said they agreed with the idea.
Cummings, a stooped, tremorous man with grey hair, offered this in support:
"I'm a farmer. Me and my family have farmed someone else's land for 30 years. I got eight heads [dependents] at home.
"I have to go to my boss man to get money for food stamps.
"Even though we all work real hard, the food stamp office says we only made $343 last month . . . We had to end up paying $81 for $374 in food stamps. That may not seem like much to pay, but when you don't have a steady income and you have so many other bills - to pay $81 is a lot of money.
"I thank you all."
Minger was even more brief. She said she pays for her rent, utilities and about $21 worth of food stamps out of her $198 a month disability payment. "I just don't know how I'm going to do it. I need some help," she said.
The House Agriculture subcommittee members expressed sympathy, and said they wanted to do what they could to keep Americans from starving.
Rep. Margaret M. Heckler (R-Mass.) praised Cummings for being a hard worker: "It shows on your face that you've worked hard all your life." She said her major concern was that stamps are too often used to buy food of little or no nutrititional value.
Heckler said she would do what she could to help people like Cummings and Minger. They truly deserved help, she said.
Prior to testimony by Cummings and Minger, the committee heard statements from three Republican congressmen - Reps. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Robert H. Michel of Illinois and E. Thomas Coleman of Missouri - who expressed misgivings about the way the food stamp program has been run and called for tighter controls on the administration of any future program.
Coleman said his constituents were concerned that the stamps were being used to subsidize non-food items "like quality cars . . . that some food stamp recipients seem to enjoy."
"According to my constituents, ablebodied food stamp recipient should be required to accept available work . . . even work that does not pay minimum wage, if it is available."
Cummings and Minger winced at that. So did the people from the North Carolina Hunger Coalition, the poverty group that paid for their plane trip to Washington.
But Cummings said after the hearings that he had no hard feelings.
"I do think it made some sense to come up here," he said. "I hope so. If it don't do no good, I'm going to come again."