Greg Kauffman, who writes about public policy to address poverty for The Nation, wrote a scathing piece for Bill Moyers about how Democratic Senators, as well as conservative Republican and Democratic Representatives, are planning cuts to Food Stamps – the difference being the matter of how many billions of dollars’ worth of food assistance they plan to eliminate.
There are currently 47 million Americans who turn to food stamps to help make ends meet. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly 72 percent are in families with children and one-quarter of SNAP participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities. Further, 91 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes below the poverty line and 55 percent to households below half of the poverty line (about $9,500 annually for a family of three).
Despite the fact that the Institute of Medicine demonstrated the inadequacy of the SNAP benefit allotment and that a child’s access to food stamps has a positive impact on adult outcomes, the program was just cut by $5 billion on November 1. The average benefit dropped from $1.50 to $1.40 per meal. The Senate Agriculture Committee’s previous proposal to cut yet another $4 billion from SNAP would have led to 500,000 losing $90 per month in benefits, the equivalent of one week’s worth of meals.
Food Stamps were never designed to meet all of a person’s or family’s nutritional needs. However, in this terribly tight economy, with other benefits for people who are elderly, disabled, children, unemployed, or underemployed being cut at the national and state levels, Food Stamps are more and more significant in making up a family’s food budget, at the exact time that the U.S. Congress is planning deeper and longer lasting cuts than ever before in the history of the program.
Nancy Amidei continues to hold herself to a food budget equal to the $4.20 a day that the average person receiving Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or Food Stamps now receives. Here is the latest installment of her diary:
WEEK TWO – Post-Thanksgiving. I admit: I cheated. I took a “Thanksgiving break” from eating on a “food stamp diet.” So, as my second week on $4.20/day begins, that means I also start out abundantly well-fed. All last week I was conscious of how much my family had of everything. It wasn’t just the heaping plates of meat and vegetables during meals, there were all sorts of nuts and cheeses before meals, and afterward — we’d have dessert!
Day One: Went shopping today, calculator in hand, to figure per-meal-costs of every item. One result: shopping took a LOT longer. I bought what I hope is a week’s worth of food for $29.68. And that was only possible because I had some coupons from my daily newspaper. Even so, I could only afford two vegetables: carrots, and potatoes. (The green ones are all too pricey.) Also missing: fruit, something sweet.
Day Two: At a mid-morning meeting, a colleague bought me coffee – full-strength! YEA. But this week’s bread is cheaper, and already I’ve learned: it’s also less-filling. V-8 was on sale so it’s my lunch-time vegetable this week (at half the recommended portion). Dinner will be the same as last night. But I know I’m lucky. If I didn’t have a fridge or was living in my car, making it on food stamps would be impossible.
Day Three: I ran into a woman who’d read about what I was doing. She said after getting groceries for her family, she checked the food stamp amount for a family of their size, and — despite being careful — found she’d just spent nearly three times that. Meanwhile, by mid-morning, my stomach was growling. But, I found a couple of apples in the back of the fridge… had it in small amounts (to stretch it out). Very exciting. Dinner – same as last two nights. Plus, I miss chocolate.
Day Four: Had a lunch-time meeting at a restaurant. With tips and tax, lunch equaled nearly 5 days’ allotment. Even though I brought half of my lunch home (to stretch to two meals), and eating out can be avoided, not all high costs can be. What if I had diabetes? or other special diet needs? or was being treated for cancer?
Day Five: Confession: last night I found, and ate, some chocolate. Even so, when I weighed in this a.m., I’d lost another 1.5 pounds. And, I notice that my lower-cost breakfast cereal leaves me hungry by mid-morning. Very grateful I don’t have a waitress or maid’s job involving lots of moving/hauling/energy. Today’s menus are like all other days this week. Still eating the chicken cooked on Day One; it’s a bit old, but it’s dinner… and appreciated.