As Thanksgiving approaches, we’ve taken a closer look this week at hardship in America. Our final post in the series explains how cuts to SNAP are affecting families.
This Thanksgiving Day, while many of us try to find room on the table for yet another pumpkin pie, many Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) will face empty cupboards. Ordinarily, most SNAP households run out of benefits before the end of each month (see chart). And now, that’s happening earlier in the month, because every participating household had its benefits cut beginning November 1 when a temporary benefit boost from 2009 expired.
The cut, which averages $29 a month for a family of three, may not sound like a lot to those who don’t struggle to put food on the table. But for that family of three, it’s the equivalent of taking away 16 meals a month.
These families simply don’t have the ability to make up that loss. SNAP participants are poor, as we explained yesterday. Four in five SNAP recipients have gross incomes below the poverty line (about $23,500 for a family of four), with two in five households below half of the poverty line. They rely on SNAP’s assistance to purchase nutritious food; benefit levels afford no room for luxuries.
Charities have already reported rising numbers of people seeking food assistance since benefits were reduced. Further cuts — such as those proposed by the House of Representatives that would drop up to 4 million people from SNAP — would leave many more people without adequate food during this season of thanksgiving.