SNAP Food Assistance Program Faces Dramatic Cuts in Farm Bill
On Monday, June 10th, the Senate will vote on the Farm Bill. The 2008 Farm Bill effectively expired in 2012 but was granted an extension until September 2013 to the tune of $650billion. In zealous efforts to reduce the federal deficit in agricultural related funding, Congress has amended sections of the bill to dramatically reduce or eliminate funding to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).
SNAP, the modern-day equivalent of food stamp program, has existed in various forms since the 1930s as a means of providing Americans who are facing financial hardships with a way to provide themselves with basic foodstuffs. The majority of the recipients of this program are children and youths. Although SNAP is an expense, economists have noted its positive effects on economic stimulus; according to Moody Analytics, every dollar increase in SNAP generates $1.72 in economic activity. SNAP was designed to serve as a temporary means of assistance to Americans in need; USDA statistics show that half of new participants only remain the program for nine months or less.
Since 2008 financial crisis, food stamp applications have increased by 70 percent, and some estimates figure 47.8 million Americans are recipients of food stamp benefits. In a time where there is an obvious need for the SNAP program to continue– if not expand– the amendments to SNAP would drastically reduce funding and eligibility parameters. The amendments would seek to cut funding by $4billion in the Senate version and $20billion in the House version over the next decade.
These new cuts would cause up to 2 million people to lose access entirely and prevent more than 200,000 children from receiving free school meals. In addition to direct access to meals, funding for nutrition education is also at risk in the sectors where it is most needed.
Among the new guidelines, any person convicted of a violent crime at any point in his or her life would automatically be ineligible for SNAP benefits; a provision that is certain to have a negative impact in many urban communities.
The Pew Research Center recently released a survey indicating that nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) report that they had trouble putting food on the table in the past year, up from 16% in 2007.
Several organizations that fight hunger in the USA, including Bread for the World, Feeding America, Food Research and Action Center, and No Kid Hungry, have banded together to circulate a petition to urge Congress to preserve SNAP funding.