While some think food stamps are reserved for the especially needy and poor, it is becoming the nation’s most important nutritional safety net for many Americans — one in seven people currently receive assistance.
Effective Nov. 1, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, will face cuts affecting nearly 45 million low-income Americans.
Republicans have approved over $40 billion in cuts that would be phased throughout 10 years. This will be the largest wholesale cut to the food stamps program since Congress passed the first Food Stamps Act in 1964.
Although the aim of this reduction by Congress was to save the government around $5 billion this next year, it will be ineffective in recovering the economy in the long term. More importantly, these cuts will be deeply felt among families who depend and survive on the program’s modest assistance.
Many households dependant on the assistance food stamps provide will struggle more than ever to feed themselves. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a household of one will lose $11, and a household of four will lose $36 dollars for the month of November 2013. While these numbers seem negligible to some, it’s important to those who are forced to strategize their grocery budget down to the last penny.
In fact, this cut will not only affect how much households eat but how they eat. A lower sum of money often means skipping on important staples such as dairy and meat. Because a well-rounded and nutritious diet is often more expensive, families will be forced to buy cheaper, less healthy items.
On a local level, 22,000 Santa Cruz residents would be affected by this cut — 8 percent of the county’s population. Cutting food stamps will be especially devastating to our community members.
This also means added strain on programs such as food banks. Second Harvest, a Santa Cruz food bank, serves 55,000 people in Santa Cruz County. However, due to this recent cut, many more people will be forced to turn to food banks such as Second Harvest.
Reducing our national food stamps program will not only be felt by its recipients, but it will ultimately hurt the economy. These cuts are negatively impacting the stores that accept these food stamps. Shoppers who receive less in food stamps means a drop in sales for local stores.
Ultimately, households receiving less in food stamps means less money passing back into the local economy. In turn, decreased economic activity means fewer taxes coming in and more assistance going out.
Instead of cutting a program essential to so many Americans, the government should slash the bloated budgets spent on things like National Defense. Our government spends $700 billion on defense, which is 20 percent of our national budget. While defense is undoubtedly a priority for our spending, it shouldn’t be at the cost of leaving countless American citizens hungry.
While it is unlikely lawmakers will reverse this decision immediately, the first step forward is to recognize food stamps benefit many Americans — a significant number of those include non-disabled, non-elderly working Americans, children and even students. The world’s most affluent country should not have its residents be riddled with problems such as malnutrition and hunger.