The Republicans in the House of Representatives recently voted to cut $36 billion in spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, a.k.a. food stamps) - all while the need for food stamps is increasing at an unprecedented rate.
An unfortunate (but unsurprising) byproduct of the current economic reality, food stamp enrollment reached an all-time high in 2011: 45 million people across the U.S. - or one in seven people - received SNAP benefits, showing an increase of 70 percent between 2007 and 2011. Three-quarters of these households include a child, a person age 60 or older, or a disabled person. And in a sign of the times, even advanced degree holders have had an increase in need for food stamps: "Of the 22 million Americans with master's degrees or higher in 2010, about 360,000 were receiving some kind of public assistance."
The need in Texas is especially high. Nineteen percent of Texas households experience food insecurity - one of the highest rates in the nation. We've previously blogged about food stamp use by county, which shows just how widespread it is across the state.
When funding for nutrition assistance falls short, people in need turn to food banks. But they don't have enough to go around either. Celia Cole, CEO of the Texas Food Bank Network, spoke out against the cuts:
"Feeding our neighbors is a shared responsibility. Food banks will not be able to make up the difference from this proposed cut, and Texas families will suffer the consequences if it becomes law."
Fortunately, despite the popularity of cutting spending generally, most people actually don't want it cut from SNAP: a recent public opinion poll found that 77% of voters (and 63% of Republican voters) oppose cutting SNAP to reduce government spending. So perhaps there is hope that the funding cuts won't come to fruition, or at least won't be as dire.
SNAP only provides about $1.50 a meal, or roughly $30 per week per person. As far as government benefits go, it's not a lot of money. You may have heard about Mario Batali joining the ranks of those who attempted the food stamp challenge this week, which involves eating only what food stamps can cover. The answer: not much.
But for 45 million people, it can mean the difference between having a complete meal or going hungry.