States Sick of Federal Cuts Take Food Assistance into Their Own Hands

Food stamp cuts have been devastating low income people across the country who are in a precarious state of food insecurity as they struggle to feed themselves and their children. Lately, they’ve developed an unlikely ally. No, it’s not church groups, charities, the Occupy movement, or any other grass roots organizations…it’s their own state governments and welfare benefits offices. States are rippling with rebellion over the cuts, and they’re getting creative about helping their residents get the food assistance they need.

States were offered an out called the “heat and eat” program, in which people receiving heating assistance (even if it was as little as $1 per month) were entitled to extra food assistance. Of those states, six are already using this loophole, and two more are thinking about it, much to the surprise of the members of Congress who thought the loophole would end up being too troublesome for states to bother with it. Instead, states desperate to prevent radical cuts to food assistance to people who are already having a difficult time are jumping on it, causing many Republicans to demand that Congress go back to the drawing board to close the loophole.

Heat and eat was implemented in the first place because numerous families receiving financial assistance are forced to choose between paying for heat and paying for food at the end of the month as their available funds start to dry up. This reflects the outdated metrics used by government agencies that set benefits amounts, which are often woefully inadequate when the cost of living in a given area is considered. Thus, even with assistance, people were experiencing hunger and/or cold, which was in turn leading to poor health and problems like having trouble focusing in school and difficulty at work.

The program provided a way out for states that wanted to offer extra help, but couldn’t do so under existing funding frameworks for benefits programs. Much to the surprise of many conservatives in government, states have been fighting the food assistance cuts embedded in the farm bill hard, and one of the ways they’ve done it is through this program. It allows them to restore or improve nutritional assistance for families who are clearly struggling to meet their needs every month.

Even with heat and eat assistance, families are still relying on food banks and other forms of charity to get themselves through the month, illustrating that the program still isn’t perfect. However, it does make things better, and it comes with an added bonus: the additional assistance money gets spent in the state, boosting local economies. Government benefits have a strong rate of return, as investing in people tends to generate a ripple effect. For every dollar spent at a supermarket through the heat and eat program, low-income people are supporting jobs for workers at every stage of the food production chain, and they’re making their own communities wealthier and better able to offer more options to their residents.


Photo credit: US Department of Agriculture.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 months ago

thanks for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven7 months ago

thanks for the article.

Joanna W.
Joanna W.2 years ago

ha !!! too funny

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

Programs like these belong in the hands of churches and charities. They do a far better job of caring for the poor,etc. and they do it far more efficiently. But states will do a better job than the feds because they are more apt to know what people need in their areas.

Michael T.
Michael T.2 years ago

Well, @Eric while you claim

"And no I don't watch fox news or any of the other main stream propaganda channels."

You certainly sound like you do, so you might as well be watching Faux News, and other related sources of disinformation, as your talking points are exactly the same as what are found there.

But I can understand it if you can't afford to get that as a Cable channel and I am not making fun of you by saying so, merely pointing our that your position isn't at all different from what is coming through their opinion apparatus.

Which is why Robert H reacted to your claims in the manner that he did.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa2 years ago

Thank you

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

OH yes lets blame the Fed for all the abuses ACTUALLY caused by greedy corporation. Notice I didnt say ALL corporations. But this idea that the government has created all of this is beyond laughable. Of COURSE business would LOVE for you to beleive that. And guys like Eric have swalled the guppy right down to his guts. There is PLENTY of blame on the business end. AS a matter of fact all the while corporations are bitching about the government publicly they OWN it privately. Fascism doesnt care about Government vs Corportate because THEY ARE THE SAME THING!!!! We are amazingly close or even IN fascism at this very time. THis is simply the same shit I have heard from the right for the last 60 years. Its the GUVMENTS fault you are pooor, NOT MINE.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

there are no jobs to work at eric!!!!! MANY OF THE JOBS THAT RE AVAIALBE PAY 10 D AN HOUR OR LESS. Education doesnt help much either. I opresonally know PHds that are working at Kroger or driving busses becayse thats all they can find. SEan hannit and his il are nothing but agitators and spew half facts like they are whole facts. MOST people on assitance are working……they jsut cant make enough to live on. Walmart teaches their employeees how to get assistance.

If ONLY the problem were as simple as the right wants you to believe.

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B.2 years ago