Cut equals 21 lost meals per month for family of four
HARRISBURG, PA (August 2, 2013) — Nearly 1.8 million Pennsylvanians will see a cut in food assistance this fall equal to 21 lost meals per month for a family of four, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data discussed in a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C.
Nutrition assistance is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger and a powerful tool to help keep families out of poverty. Benefits are modest, offering many Pennsylvania families a crucial bridge in this slow economic recovery.
The cut, which takes effect in November, is the result of an expiring provision included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that temporarily boosted the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to strengthen the economy and ease hardship in the wake of the recession. (SNAP is the program formerly known as food stamps.)
“This small increase in food assistance has been a lifeline for many Pennsylvanians, a majority of whom work but earn low wages,” said Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. “It has allowed many families to stay afloat during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center co-released the new report with the Coalition Against Hunger, Just Harvest, and Public Citizens for Children and Youth.
In addition to helping to feed hungry families, SNAP is one of the fastest, most effective ways to spur the economy. Every $1 increase in SNAP benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity. Benefits boost demand for farm produce, helping to keep our nation’s farms strong.
All of the more than 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, who receive SNAP benefits will be affected by the November cut in food assistance. In Pennsylvania, nearly 1.8 million people will be impacted.
Just Harvest client Ruth Vesa, a 78-year-old widow in Pittsburgh, said: “I’m very thankful for the food stamp program because it enables me to have good food to eat and not be worried about my medical prescriptions. Otherwise I would have to make a choice. Any cuts to the program would be hurtful to me personally.”
The across-the-board cuts scheduled for November will reduce the program by $5 billion in fiscal year 2014 alone, including $183 million in Pennsylvania. Cuts of that magnitude will have a significant impact on low-income families.
For a family of three, the cut will likely mean a reduction of $29 a month — $319 for the remaining 11 months of the fiscal year. This is a serious loss for families whose benefits, after this cut, will average less than $1.40 per person per meal.
This cut will be the equivalent of taking away 21 meals per month for a family of four or 16 meals for a family of three, based on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ calculations using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Thrifty Food Plan (the cost for a family of four to purchase and prepare a bare-bones diet at home).
“This is the first time in the history of the program that families will see their SNAP benefits drop overnight,” said Julie Zaebst, Interim Director of the Coalition Against Hunger in Philadelphia. “Given the fact that many families’ benefits already run out before the end of the month, these cuts will be particularly painful.”
“Food stamps have been a critical support for working families who are confronting poverty,” said Ken Regal, Executive Director of Just Harvest in Pittsburgh. “We shouldn’t forget that the majority of recipients are children and the elderly, for whom food assistance is essential. It is unconscionable that the richest nation in the world would take food out of the mouths of its most vulnerable citizens, who are struggling through no fault of their own. There should be no cuts to this modest assistance.”
On top of these across-the-board cuts to the program, the U.S. House of Representatives recently defeated legislation that would have cut $20 billion from SNAP. A recent study by the Health Impact Project, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, finds that a cut that large to SNAP would take benefits away from 5.1 million struggling Americans.
The House is considering and could vote on even deeper cuts to the program in the coming weeks. If enacted, such cuts could leave many families and their children without assistance to put food on the table when they need it most.
“Nutrition assistance has been a powerful tool in helping to keep families out of poverty,” said Donna Cooper, Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. “The majority of recipients who are able to work, do so. For those who can’t or are temporarily unable to find a job, food assistance has given them and their families a leg up. Now is not the time to cut this already modest assistance.”
Read the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ full report, SNAP Benefits Will Be Cut for All Participants in November 2013.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is a policy research project that provides independent analysis on tax, budget, and related policy matters, with attention to the impact of policies on working families. Learn more at pennbpc.org.
Founded in 1996, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger strives to build a community where all people have the food they need to lead healthy lives. Learn more at www.hungercoalition.org/“.
Founded in 1986, Just Harvest works in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania to end hunger and poverty. Learn more at http://www.justharvest.org/www.justharvest.org/.
Founded in 1980, Public Citizens for Children and Youth is dedicated to improving the lives and life chances of children in the Delaware Valley. Learn more at www.pccy.org.