A $36 cut in food stamps

This is what a $36/month cut in SNAP benefits for a family of four looks like:

(c) Maya Dukmasova

As of November 1, the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps) was reduced for over 47 million people in America.  This was the expiration date on the extra $5 billion provided to SNAP by the 2009 stimulus act.  Meanwhile, since 2008, over 21 million people were added to food stamp rolls.

Today, 1 in 4 American children live in a home that receives food stamps. Veterans and the elderly are also feeling the sharp pang of food stamp cuts, as reported last week.   Monthly assistance to the needy is now reduced by $11 per person or $36 for a family of four. Until this month, the monthly maximum food stamp allowance for a family of four was $668.  The new cut-off is $632.

Food banks across the country are  anticipating a dramatic rise in demand as a result, and are struggling to find the means to cope with the influx of need.  Last week, Kate Maehr, executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository made the local media rounds, demonstrating what a $36 cut to families actually meant.  Pictured here is all the food that $36 can buy at a discount grocery story.

“The overwhelming majority of recipients did not see [the cut] coming,” Maehr told me in an interview last Thursday, adding that the Greater Chicago Food Depository is already facing record demand, with a 68% increase over the past 5 years.  “We see a rollback of a benefit that has a very real impact on families in our community at a time when we already see this historic high need.” Maehr emphasized the enormity of additional pressure the cuts will be putting on organizations like hers. “We cannot fill the gap, and it’s tough because I need people to invest in the food depository and the pantries. But we also have to talk about what the likely consequences will be if these cuts go forward. This network was never designed to be the answer, this network was designed to be an emergency responding network.  But we have become a sustaining network.”

SNAP could face an additional $40 billion cut if House Republicans push through their new farm bill.

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