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Millions Struggle to Eat While Congress Considers More SNAP Cuts

Millions Struggle to Eat While Congress Considers More SNAP Cuts

This is a guest blog post by WhyHungers National Hunger Clearinghouse Outreach Coordinator, Christine Binder.

On November 1, the nearly 48 million Americans who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) had their benefits cut. Households are seeing a seven percent average reduction in SNAP benefits. This may not seem like a lot, but for a low-income family still trying to recover from the effects of the recession, it makes a big difference.

As an advocate working on the National Hunger Hotline (1-866-3-HUNGRY), every day I speak with people who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. Many of our callers have been particularly affected by the SNAP cuts and are looking for more information and help finding food. Earlier this month, a senior from Birmingham, Ala., called to ask for the number of her local SNAP office. She was worried after hearing about the SNAP cuts on the news, but she was not able to find out how much her benefits would be decreased. As a retiree on a fixed income, she needed to know how much she would have to spend on food in order to budget her already limited resources. Even a little less would mean tougher decisions at the grocery store and smaller portions.

A few days later, I received a call from a family with a young daughter. The father had lost his job due to the recession and the mother was working a part-time job to support the three of them. She had recently picked up a few extra hours at work, but as a result of her slight income increase, their SNAP benefits were cut. Then, due to the nationwide SNAP cuts on November 1, their benefits were reduced for the second time in two months. “I honestly don’t know how we’re going to make it,” she told me.

I was able to refer them to food pantries in their area, but it is unlikely that charity will be able to replace their lost benefits. Emergency food providers such as food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens distribute about $5 billion worth of food to hungry people each year. But this year, $5 billion is also the amount being cut from SNAP, which “makes it as if every single emergency food provider in the United States didn’t exist,” according to Joel Berg, executive director of New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

Food pantries are trying to provide food for an increasing number of people, despite decreases in both government support and donations. I recently spoke with the manager of a food pantry in Newark, N.J., who told me that “every week there are dozens of new people coming. We don’t give out full grocery bags anymore – more like half-bags. There’s only enough fresh produce to hand out every other week. I feel like I’m always apologizing.”

Some are defending the cuts because the boost to SNAP benefits provided by the 2009 Recovery Act was intended to be temporary, giving help to hungry families during the harsh recession. The truth, however, is that these cuts unnecessarily came nearly a year earlier than originally intended because Congress opted to fund other programs by taking money from the SNAP budget and did not return it as promised. These cuts are also not an isolated occurrence, but rather the latest in a line of government actions and inactions – sequestration, the expiration of the Farm Bill and the government shutdown – that have negatively affected federal nutrition programs.

In September, the USDA released a report indicating that rates of food insecurity have not decreased since the recession began in 2008; despite this, Congress is currently contemplating a Farm Bill that includes up to $40 billion in additional SNAP cuts over the next ten years. In times like these, it is wrong to take food away from children, seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and adults who have been unable to find adequate work due to the economy. Hungry people are already suffering; Congress need not add to their misery.

Related Stories:

Can Food Banks Make Up for the Millions Lost in SNAP Benefit Cuts

26 Lawmakers Live Off Food Stamps to Protest Republican Cuts

Oh SNAP: Food Stamps Keep Millions Out of Poverty

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9:45PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

Shannon M. wrote "When large masses of people are hungry and desperate, we get violence."

Barbara L. wrote "Do you know what has caused revolutions in the past? (i.e., the French revolution, the Russian revolution) -- when people get too desperate to care about the consequences."

I've been told that Richard Nixon recognized that a hungry population is a dangerous population. Let's hope that our politicians come to their senses before this country has food riots and worse.

4:47AM PST on Dec 12, 2013

Thank you Bill, for Sharing this!

8:23PM PST on Nov 25, 2013

Doesn't any one think about the trillions of corporate welfare they take from us and give to people that don't come close to needing it?

We SHOULD take care of our poor. The republicans put us here and they don't give a damned about it.

"People On Welfare get more a month than I Get

Being poor to different degrees shouldn't be in play. We need to get rid of the people that fight for Reaganomics. It's been 31 years of pure hell.

6:10PM PST on Nov 25, 2013

I drove a Trailer Truck For 19 Years Long Haulin From R.I. To Neworleans And When I Retired 2 Years Ago I Found Out That My Medical Is Medicade And People On Welfare get more a month than I Get ! WTH !!!

9:47AM PST on Nov 25, 2013

It's disgraceful that poor people are being targeted to save the government money - it's happening here in the UK also. It's always the weakest and most vulnerable in society who have to pay the price, while the wealthy and those in positions of power grow ever richer. It makes me sick. Now even those who work but are on low wages are suffering - employers aren't paying enough to provide a decent living wage - it's an issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, but I don't think it'll happen - governments always look after those with money.

1:58AM PST on Nov 25, 2013

It is very hard, being Australian, to quite keep up with what is going on here. It seems to be totally insane! I think that the comment that we all need to fill the gap by helping those in need is a salient one, as politicians who make the rules about where funding goes are very wealthy people and have no idea what it is like for poor ordinary working people and so it is no use epecting them to do anything that is fair and right! I DO hate it when I read of the so-called Christians who seem to have such a sway in some of the political decisions in the US as they seem to awfull NON-Christian! Christianity should reflect love and care and feeding the poor and being kind to the lonely and the down-and-outs and anything else is just purely an insult to God and to true Chritianity and is jut the product of human bigotry and greed and selfishness and bid for power over those different to themsleves and less fortunate. It is so against everting that is fair and right. How did we get it so wrong???

7:58PM PST on Nov 24, 2013

ty

4:23PM PST on Nov 24, 2013

I am a grocery cashier. A lot of people come in, obviously on their way home from work, then pay with SNAP benefits. It is a shame that people can work hard all day then still be so poor they qualify for food stamps. And a dismaying number of those people in their work clothes paying for their food with food stamps are in military uniforms. They shouldn't go hungry, and they shouldn't live on ramen noodles.

2:37PM PST on Nov 24, 2013

Thank you.

11:12AM PST on Nov 24, 2013

A primary reason the state went to credit cards for SNAP and other public assistance programs is to help offset the hostility of people in the line behind them. Food stamps took a longer time to use, had to be inspected, signed off, etc. The other main reason is that the spending is easier to track, the government knows where every dime of the money went, what vendor, what products, when, how often. Creepy, but at least somewhat accountable. If you buy something with a bar code, they will be able to learn about it if they care to.

It is really none of my business to criticize what poor people buy with their money, other than to possibly hope the funds wouldn't be spendable at fast food joints and restaurants. There are specific foods that can be bought with WIC funds and they don't include fast food. Milk, eggs, rice, beans, baby foods, vegetables and produce, but not alcohol, tobacco, candy. I suppose in some places, SNAP funds can be used for a wider range of foodstuff than WIC funds, but here, you are supposedly unable to use SNAP funds for junk food, tobacco, or alcohol.

And for those who think it is that easy to have a SNAP application approved, maybe you ought to give it a try. I earn $ 750 a month after withholding, and that is my income. I don't qualify for food assistance because I still live in my home and own a car. Never mind that a car means you can go to your job (if you have one) or that I live 25 miles out of town. I am too rich to get assis

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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