The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or food stamps, serves as an important buffer against the increasing prevalence of child hunger. Under the SNAP program, funds are provided to purchase food and the benefit amount is determined by a number of variables including income, family size and other expenses.
Nebraska families participating in the SNAP program were recently informed that the monthly amount they receive will be reduced on November 1st. For a family of four, this would mean a monthly decrease of $36.
This decrease is due to a planned reduction in federal funding. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the stimulus package, included additional funding for SNAP. That additional funding is ending, resulting in this loss of benefits for low income families.
What does this reduction mean for a family of four? According to average food prices, $36 could buy over 10 pounds of ground beef, over 10 gallons of milk or over 20 pounds of apples. This is a significant loss for families living on the edge of poverty, at 133% of the poverty line (or about $31,000 annually for a family of four) as SNAP eligibility requires.
The further bad news for low-income children is that there may be more cuts to SNAP coming. Congress, and in particular the House of Representatives, has passed legislation to cut SNAP even further. The bill is currently in what is known as a conference committee, where legislators attempt to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill before a final bill is passed.
A group of pediatricians recently spoke out against SNAP cuts because of the damaging impact on young children. Dr. Deborah Frank, a professor of Child Health and Well-being and Pediatrician at Boston University School of Medicine, described it this way:
“Infants and young children in the first three years of life, the most critical period for the growth of the body and brain, are the most physiologically vulnerable to lasting ill effects of food insecurity on health and learning. Our research, and that of many others, has convinced us that food insecurity — which affects approximately 16 million U.S. children (21.6 percent) — is one of the greatest public health threats that our nation faces.”
SNAP is a critical tool in addressing child hunger and the cut that families see on November 1st are likely to increase child hunger. We hope that Congress won’t make further cuts to the SNAP program that result in more children to feel the damaging impact of hunger.