Cuts to SNAP reflect poor priorities

Families across the country are facing devastating cuts to the food stamp program.

Due to the large amount of debt and economic unrest the nation currently faces, there has been an effort to reduce federal and state spending through cuts to many social programs. On Nov. 1, perhaps one of the most devastating cuts was put into effect.

The food stamp program, officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was cut by 5 percent, or by about $36 less per family per month due to the expiration of the increase to the program brought on by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

In 2009, the ARRA was signed into law. The act set aside $45.2 billion for SNAP; however, this increase in benefits expired on Oct. 31.

In addition, families could face an even larger decrease in benefits due to the farm bill currently being debated in Congress. The bill has the potential to cut an additional $40 billion from the program over the course of 10 years.

The Senate version of the bill even has a provision to ban all people convicted of a violent crime from ever receiving food stamps. The provision was proposed by Rep. Senator David Vitter and is still part of the official bill.

Individuals who have been convicted of violent crimes already face employment discrimination, so this bill only further punishes those who are trying to reintegrate themselves into society.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the majority of individuals who receive SNAP benefits are children and the elderly, making this ban even more unfair towards those who are in the most need.

Although there is no guarantee that either of the bills will pass, there has already been a significant cut in benefits due to the expiration of the ARRA.

Any cuts enacted due to the passage of the farm bill would only further harm families in need of SNAP benefits.

In a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) this year, it was shown that the loss of the boost from the AARA will mean that families of three will receive only $29 per month, or about $1.40 per meal. This small budget means families often search for the most inexpensive options to feed themselves and their dependents.

Very inexpensive food options tend to be items that are generally unhealthy while produce can tend to be more expensive so any further decrease in benefits will only make it harder for families to have the flexibility to purchase healthy foods.

In a story by USA Today, one newscaster tried his luck at purchasing enough food with this amount of money.

When reviewed by a nutritionist, his purchases were very unhealthy and high in sodium. While the nutritionist was able to purchase more healthy options with the money, it is often times much easier for families to buy convenience foods that lack nutritional quality, but are inexpensive and are offered in larger portions.

For families dealing with food insecurity, nutritional value is not always the top priority.

Any further cuts to this program will be devastating for families that are already facing a loss of benefits.

SNAP does not actually drain the economy, which is the justification for the cuts presented in the farm bills.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates as much as $9 in total economic activity.”

The Food and Research Action Center reported on the economic benefits of SNAP and quoted economist Mark Zandi as saying, “If someone who is literally living paycheck to paycheck gets an extra dollar, it’s very likely that they will spend that dollar immediately on whatever they need—groceries, to pay the telephone bill, to pay the electric bill.”

The money these individuals spend is almost immediately placed back into circulation, therefore stimulating the economy.

In addition, SNAP was shown to not only effectively respond to the economic recession, but also not lead to dependency.

The CBPP reported this year that the Congressional Budget Office has actually predicted that the number of individuals enrolled in SNAP will begin to fall as early as next year.

Of all of the possible programs to cut, it makes the least amount of sense to make cuts to SNAP.

The families that will be impacted by the cuts are already suffering, yet lawmakers are willing to cause further suffering by making cuts to one of the few safety net programs still available to impoverished households.

There needs to be a serious reevaluation of the country’s priorities if our lawmakers are honestly willing to punish citizens for an economic crisis they did not cause.