STARVING AMERICA

ABSTRACT: On November 1, federal food assistance to poor Americans was cut by $5 billion. The $78 billion Food Stamps program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), currently serves 48 million low income Americans, including 21 million children. This reduction in food assistance from the federal government is equal to the amount donated to churches, synagogues, and private food banks.

A family of four receiving the maximum amount will have their benefit fall from $668 to $632 per month. It is estimated that the typical SNAP beneficiary will receive $1.40 per meal. The Institute of Medicine found that the SNAP allotment, which is critically important for nutrition and health for both adults and children, was inadequate even before this cut.

The number of Americans receiving SNAP benefits has increased mainly due to the large number of people who lost jobs during the Great Recession. In addition, many Americans in low wage and / or part-time jobs qualify for Food Stamps.

Food, obviously, is a necessity and SNAP’s food stamps are a vital support for poor families with children, low income seniors, some people with disabilities, and some unemployed workers. Nonetheless, Congress actually wants to cut food assistance even more! This cut and the additional cuts being discussed will cause real harm to recipients by reducing a meager but essential support. There are many better and fairer ways to cut spending or increase revenue so these cuts to SNAP can be avoided.

FULL POST: On November 1, federal food assistance to poor Americans was cut by $5 billion. The $78 billion Food Stamps program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), currently serves 48 million low income Americans, including 21 million children. The cut is caused by the expiration of supplemental funding from the 2009 stimulus package. Although many politicians had pledged to extend this funding if it was still needed, that has not happened. On top of the hardships of the Great Recession and a weak recovery, this is another blow to people who are already among the most vulnerable citizens in our nation. [1]

Despite its significant impact on households that struggle to put food on the table, this event received scant attention in the mainstream, corporate media. This reduction in food assistance from the federal government is equal to the amount donated to churches, synagogues, and private food banks, according to a study by the Washington-based anti-hunger advocate Bread for the World. [2]

SNAP benefits will be cut by about 5.5%. A family of four receiving the maximum amount will have their benefit fall from $668 to $632 per month. It is estimated that the typical SNAP beneficiary will receive $1.40 per meal. [3] The Institute of Medicine found that the SNAP allotment, which is critically important for nutrition and health for both adults and children, was inadequate even before this cut. The cut means that nutrition will suffer and more families will run out of food by the end of the month. And more families will be in poverty because in 2012 SNAP lifted 4 million people above the poverty line ($18,300 for a family of 3, which often is a single mother with 2 children), making it one of the most effective anti-poverty programs we have. [4]

The $5 billion SNAP cut will have an effect on the overall economy. It is projected to slightly reduce our slow economic growth (from 2.0% to 1.9%) and has retail food stores and other consumer outlets worried about reduced sales. It is estimated that every $1 of Food Stamp benefits generates $1.74 of economic activity. [5]

The number of Americans receiving SNAP benefits has increased to roughly 48 million from about 26 million in 2007. This growth is mainly due to the large number of people who lost jobs during Great Recession, and especially those who either didn’t qualify for unemployment benefits or whose benefits have run out due to long-term unemployment. (Fewer than half of unemployed workers are currently receiving unemployment benefits.) In addition, many Americans in low wage and / or part-time jobs qualify for Food Stamps, including many workers at our large fast food corporations and at Walmart. (See my post of 10/30/13, Lack of Good Jobs is our Most Urgent Problem, for more information: https://lippittpolicyandpolitics.org/2013/10/29/lack-of-good-jobs-is-our-most-urgent-problem/.)

SNAP is a Department of Agriculture program and historically has been part of the Farm Bill. Renewal of the Farm Bill is currently stalled in Congress, in part over differences in how much more to cut SNAP. (That’s not a typo; Congress actually wants to cut food assistance even more!) House Republicans are proposing additional cuts of about $4 billion a year that would remove about 3 million people from the program, while Senate Democrats would cut one tenth of that, or $400 million a year. The Farm Bill also includes subsidies to multi-billion dollar agricultural corporations, billionaire investors in farms, and 14 members of Congress. However, these subsidies apparently won’t be cut; they will continue or increase. [6][7]

Food, obviously, is a necessity and SNAP’s food stamps are a vital support for poor families with children, low income seniors, some people with disabilities, and some unemployed workers. This cut that went into effect on November 1 and the additional cuts being discussed as part of the Farm Bill are tiny amounts in terms of the overall federal budget but will cause real harm to recipients by reducing a meager but essential support. There are many better and fairer ways to cut spending or increase revenue so these cuts to SNAP can be avoided. [8]

 

[1]       Kaufmann, G., 10/28/13, “This Week in Poverty: No Time to Wait on a Movement,” The Nation

[2]       Wallbank, D., & Bjerga, A., “Wal-Mart to widows will feel U.S. Food Stamp cuts,” Bloomberg

[3]       Dayen, D., 11/6/13, “The Democrats’ original Food-Stamp sin,” The American Prospect

[4]       Kaufmann, G., 10/28/13, see above

[5]       Rampell, C., 10/31/13, “As cuts to Food Stamps take effect, more trims to benefits are expected,” The New York Times

[6]       Alman, A., 7/23/13, “George Miller Criticizes House Republicans Over Farm Subsidies,” The Huffington Post

[7]       Nixon, R., 11/7/13, “Billionaires Received U.S. Farm Subsidies, Report Finds,” The New York Times

[8]       Weinstein, D., 11/6/13, “Time to tell the truth about Food Stamps,” The Huffington Post

Advertisements

Comments and discussion are encouraged

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: