The Consequences of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Cuts Effective November 1
As we head towards the holiday season, it is sad to note that about 18 percent of our regional population — already living on modest food budgets — will be preparing for the most festive time of year with even less money available to them for food. They are new casualties of protracted budget battles in Washington, D.C.
While there is little room for debate that federal budgets must be better managed, decisions about budgeting at a macro level should not strip basic necessities out of the personal budgets of those represented by federal elected officials.
Starting Nov. 1, more than 93,000 people in the eight counties served by the Southeast Texas Food Bank have less money to feed their families because of an automatic cut made to the federal food stamp program. Those affected are among the 47 million Americans receiving less support through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, due to the end of a funding adjustment made during the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus Plan) that passed four years ago.
As an example of the concrete impact that will result in close to $9.25 million in funding reduction for residents of our region, consider the situation of a family of four. Before Nov. 1, such a family could receive up to $668 a month in SNAP benefits. The rollback of that benefit to a maximum of $632 per month (about $21 per day) means that family has five percent less financial support available to them for food, probably equating to the evaporation of the family’s food budget two days earlier each month, unless cut backs are made to the amount of food purchased.
Estimates made by Feeding America, the coordinating agency of food banks around the country, calculate that the purchasing power for families in our region affected by the SNAP cut will be diminished to the tune of 3.9 million meals in the year ahead. That’s more than a cumulative 10,000 meals per day that local families will no longer be able to afford.
This cut, while aiming to be fiscally prudent, comes at a communal cost. Almost certainly, there will be a resulting increased need for food assistance at food pantries and soup kitchens across the area. Like most not-for-profits, they are already stretched thin, so at the Southeast Texas Food Bank, and throughout the Feeding America network, food banks are doing what we can to prepare for that influx of demand for food from our member agencies in the community.
Regrettably, this month’s cut isn’t the last or only one that will create significant impact on families in need in our area. In September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation cutting $40 billion in SNAP over the next 10 years. Together with this month’s cut, the pending legislation, if left unmodified, will result in a loss of nearly 3.4 billion meals for low-income Americans in 2014 alone.
While this month’s SNAP cut became an unavoidable action triggered by the nuances of the legislative process, we can potentially prevent further cuts from taking place by more engagement in that process. As we stand on the brink of even deeper budget cuts affecting access to a basic necessity of life, it is an opportune moment to let Congress know that cutting SNAP is not an ethical form of fiscal restraint.
Pulling together as a community is a fundamental American value, and fighting hunger is a public-private partnership. We need both a strong charitable system and a strong governmental anti-hunger safety net.
At the Southeast Texas Food Bank, our mission statement is “Leading the Fight Against Hunger in Southeast Texas”. That statement is predicated on the belief that working together, individuals, charities, businesses and government can win that fight without making those who are hungry losers in the process.