Starting today, the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary benefit boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits end. This program, formerly known as food stamps, serves about 23 million households, or nearly 48 million people. 48 million!
The average monthly benefit for an individual was about $200 a month and will drop to $189. A family of four, received about $668 a month which will drop to $632. This is a reduction from approximately $1.50 per meal to $1.40 per meal.
Although the decrease may sound minor, for individuals and families already living on tight budgets, the reduction could mean a couple bags of groceries per month, which can be significant. And the cut comes right before the holiday season which is even more devastating.
Yesterday I spoke with the director of our local food pantry. She said that more and more people are already turning to food banks and this will further increase the need. Further she said that basic nutrition will also suffer with SNAP decreases as people buy cheaper, less nutritious food to make ends meet.
I used to live in public housing and I know what it is like to have to choose between buying food, paying rent, and getting medical care. My office is next to the Senior Services office and I can tell you, many of our seniors are already struggling to heat their homes and buy medicine.
There is currently a debate in Congress over whether, and how much, the SNAP program could be cut in years to come. The House of Representatives passed a bill in mid-September that would eliminate about $39 billion from the SNAP budget over 10 years, while the Senate has approved a bill that makes much smaller cuts to the program.
Two things you can do:
1. If you are so inclined, please contact your Congressional representatives and let them know that Congress should not allow further cuts to the SNAP program, particularly at this time of extreme need. Also that the program should have incentives for healthy foods, something that some states have tried for, but the major food industries have lobbied against, and won. Incredible, but true.
2. As much as you are able, contribute to your local food banks. Food banks estimate that a typical SNAP benefit is enough for a family to buy food for two and a half to three weeks. With the reduction, this will be reduced to two or two and a half weeks. The need for food assistance is going to be great.
I always find it difficult to reconcile that so many members of Congress tout their so-called “Christian values” on one hand, while literally taking food out of baby's mouths with the other. But there again, I also have trouble reconciling how much abundance I have, while others struggle so much. I often think of that line “Half the world is starving and the other half feels too fat.”
In this month of giving thanks for all we have, please share, if you are able.