It’s $1.40 a meal.
That’s what the average family receiving benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) will have to feed each person per meal now that temporary increases in benefits that were part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic stimulus bill, ended on Oct. 31.
Upwards of 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, receive food assistance under SNAP, administered by the Department of Agriculture and authorized by the five-year omnibus farm bill. The 2012 farm bill is up for renewal and Congress cannot currently agree on funding for it. A bill passed by the House this fall would cut $39 billion from SNAP over the next 10 years. The Senate version would cut $4 billion over the same period. If agreement isn’t reached by the end of the year, certain milk price supports will end and the cost of milk will rise — also hurting consumers and farmers, as well as those in the SNAP program.
All of this means that the average family of four on SNAP benefits will be cut from $668 to $632 a month. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that means families will have an average of $1.40 a meal to spend on each person.
The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., told Congress in September that passage of a fair farm bill “is a crucial time for our nation to place a circle of protection around programs that build a more just framework and put poor and hungry people first.”
Because few of us can consistently make meals with only $1.40, more and more people are turning to local food pantries for help. For example, Paul’s Pantry in Green Bay currently serves more than 4,500 families and pantry manager Angie Allard told The Compass (see page 6) that she expects that number to climb due to SNAP cuts. Allard has seen new calls from people on SNAP benefits increasing. The same is true at the St. Martin de Porres Food Bank at Father Carr’s Place 2B in Oshkosh, which serves 170 families on a weekly basis.
That leaves us with several tasks: urge members of Congress to pass a fair farm bill; give food and monetary support to our local pantries; find other ways to help the poor in our midst; — and try cooking a meal with only $1.40. It’s called walking in someone else’s shoes.