New Farm Bill Creates Gaps in the Nutrition Safety Net
The newest Farm Bill, a massive piece of legislation which sets American agricultural and nutrition policy, was just passed by the House and will be voted on by Senate as early as this week. Some elements of the bill are enormously complex, containing the minutest details of how our government regulates the agricultural sector. But there’s one section of the bill has consequences that couldn’t be easier to understand—the proposed $8.55 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps.
The topic of SNAP (Food Stamp) cuts may sound familiar. Just this past November, SNAP suffered a massive reduction in funding. Due to the expiration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, or “Stimulus Package”) boost to SNAP, every single SNAP recipient suffered a cut to their benefits—the first of its kind in the history of SNAP, this cut affected all SNAP participants. A family of four, for example, lost the equivalent of 21 meals a month. In total, $5 billion was eliminated from SNAP for the fiscal year of 2014, and additional funding will be lost in future years.
Food banks like Philabundance struggle to keep up with the increased demand for food assistance that we see when nutrition benefits are cut. Our agencies, which include food pantries throughout the Delaware Valley, reported a 17% increase in need since the November cuts, and a 23% increase over the last year. This situation will only escalate if there is a further reduction in SNAP benefits. If this version of the Farm Bill passes, an estimated 175,000 Pennsylvania households will lose an average of $65 a month in SNAP benefits. This equates to $136.5 million in SNAP benefits lost to in Pennsylvania every year.
Together, the meals lost from the November SNAP cuts and the proposed Farm Bill SNAP cuts would exceed the total number of meals provided by food banks in Pennsylvania. The charitable sector can fill some of the gaps in America’s nutritional safety net, but at a certain point, the hole is just too large. Unfortunately, we’re rapidly approaching the moment where those gaps in access to food become chasms.
When SNAP benefits are reduced, our neighbors in need will always feel the effects of the cuts – the nation’s 47 million SNAP recipients who found themselves scrambling to put food on the table this November can attest for that. Cutting SNAP funding immediately after another major cut puts immense hardship on the shoulders of some of our most vulnerable citizens, and will almost certainly make America hungrier.
We at Philabundance encourage you to contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to make fighting hunger a priority. The Farm Bill may seem complicated, but the importance of combating food insecurity among people in need is crystal clear.