The food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is being threatened, according to some advocates, by the new Farm Bill and other proposed legislation in Congress. SNAP is based on citizenship, employment, and household income, and it provides a safety net for those who may not have enough money for food. In Alaska alone, for example, SNAP helps more than 90,000 residents each month.
SNAP is considered especially important because it assists those who are vulnerable, including the elderly and the disabled. In fact, across the country, 76% of households receiving SNAP have a disabled member, senior, or child. In Alaska, 73.5% of SNAP benefit recipients are working and 22.3% have some college education, showing that hunger can affect virtually any household. The benefits of the program are not huge – the average beneficiary receives about $1.89 per person per meal. According to studies, the accuracy rate of the program is 96.19% as of 2010.
The Farm Bill could cut $4.4 billion to the SNAP program over 10 years. It is estimated that as many 500,000 households could lose $90 each monthly in SNAP benefits. Beyond these cuts, additional cuts are also being considered.
The changes to the SNAP system are a concern because the need for food assistance is at historic levels. Those who support the cuts say that the changes are needed for accounting reasons and note that there are alternative forms of support for those who do not have enough money for food. While there are food banks and charitable organizations that provide food, however, there is also more pressure now on these organizations to provide food, at a time when many report smaller donations as more individuals and households struggle. Even those who do receive SNAP benefits rely on secondary sources of aid, so further cuts could put even more pressure on these organizations.
Those who oppose the cuts say that cuts to the SNAP program will have far-reaching consequences. Those who struggle now will have an even harder time paying for housing, food, and other necessities with the cuts. The cuts could mean that individuals and households may be pushed to make devastating decisions – such as choosing between food and heat or medications. Some groups who oppose the changes to the SNAP program are appealing to interested members of the public to write to their elected representatives in order to ask for the cuts to be halted. Advocates supporting the program hope that some of the SNAP program cuts can be stopped.