Food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are being reduced effective today, November 1st. The cuts are occurring because of the expiration of food stamp benefits from the federal stimulus program.
Feeding America says, "Nationally, about $5 billion in food assistance will be lost in fiscal year 2014, which translates into nearly 1.9 billion lost meals for low-income families."
A family of four can expect to see an average $36 dollar a month decrease in food stamps benefits. Current benefits already do not last the entire month. So many food stamp recipients will look to local pantries for help, earlier in the month than usual.
There are currently 47 million Americans relying on food stamps. What happens next as they lose this safety net during a time of high unemployment? Food banks and pantries are expecting an increase in demand, at a time when they are already overburdened.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, says, "Last year, our 12 member foodbanks and 3,300 member charities distributed emergency food valued at about $223 million. Just these cuts alone equal nearly all of the food our emergency food assistance network was able to distribute. We have no new sources of food or funding. Our network cannot fill this gap.”
The news get worse. The Congress is planning more cuts to SNAP at a time when economic recovery has still not arrived. These cuts are being debated on the Farm Bill legislation. Food stamp reductions also harm stores where the stamps are redeemed.
Hamler-Fugitt says, "We are talking about modest supplemental benefits that put low-income Ohioans in grocery store lines when they can’t afford enough food on their own. The vast majority of people receiving SNAP are children, seniors, individuals living with disabilities and adults who are working for low wages or recovering from the loss of a job or reduced hours at work. Now is not the time to take these benefits out of low-income households or local economies.”
Feeding America has set up an advocacy web page to save the food stamp program.