Today Houston Mayor Annise Parker is taking on the Food Stamp Challenge, which means she will spend no more than $4 on all of her meals for the day. $4 is the average amount that a person enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or “food stamps”) receives each day, and the challenge is intended to build understanding and awareness of just how little SNAP recipients actually receive.
As Mayor Parker pointed out, “One nice coffee at Starbucks will blow your SNAP budget for the day.” But over 4 million Texans who rely on these benefits aren't just forgoing the pumpkin spice lattes – they're making meals for themselves and their families for an entire day on an amount many of us are accustomed to spending on an afternoon snack.
And soon they'll be getting by on even less.
Read about expiring food stamp benefits and hunger in Texas after the jump. While the number of hungry Texans grows, a temporary increase in food stamp benefits from the Recovery Act is going to expire on November 1. Congress is not expected to do anything to prevent the cuts. It will mean $20 – 25 less each month for the average four-person household, which is the equivalent of 14 meals. Congress is also considering a farm bill that could cut SNAP benefits further by up to $40 billion, which would result in 170,000 Texans losing SNAP benefits entirely.
“Programs like SNAP are the backbone of our nation's response to food insecurity,” said Celia Cole, CEO of the Texas Food Bank Network. “Food banks and other private charities are already struggling to fill the gaps. Congress should not turn its back on struggling families in their time of need.”
A new USDA Report shows that Texas has the third-highest rate of “food insecurity” in the nation, with one in five Texans either hungry or at risk of hunger between 2010 and 2012. Most of the recipients are children, the elderly and people with disabilities, and the chart below shows that families headed by single mothers are disproportionately represented.
Letting SNAP benefits expire – or even worse, making drastic cuts to the SNAP program – punishes people who are often hungry or food insecure even with SNAP benefits, and who can't simply find new sources of income to make up the difference because of their age or physical disabilities. While $25 per month might not seem like the difference between being able to feed one's family or not, it has a major impact on families accustomed to spending less than $2 per meal.