National Beat Reporter
Starting at the beginning of November, the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), experienced extensive cuts, totaling $5 billion. The food stamp cuts alone were expected to affect roughly 47 million Americans.
According to USA Today, SNAP benefits roughly one out of every seven Americans, and a family of four that used to receive $668 per month in benefits found that amount cut by $36.
The San Jose Mercury News, based on reports by the Department of Agriculture, reported that the cuts have affected more than 4 million residents in California alone and will amount to a decrease of roughly 21 individual meals per month per person.
SNAP is administered by the Department of Agriculture and is authorized every five years in the farm bill, a comprehensive piece of legislation that covers all government policies related to agriculture.
Two factors resulted in the extensive cuts. First, President Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill, which gave SNAP a fiscal boost, came to an end. Second, Congress has yet to agree on a new farm bill.
In other words, the cuts are, once again, the result of Congress’ inability to come to an agreement on the budget.
Attempts to create a new farm bill have been fruitless. At the beginning of November, the Republican-controlled House passed a bill that would cut $39 billion from SNAP over the next decade. In contrast, the Democratic-controlled Senate approved a bill that would only cut $4 billion.
According to USA Today, the farm bill generally wins bipartisan support with little resistance because it includes funding for agricultural programs favored by farm and business interests in addition to SNAP, which is supported by liberal and urban interests. However, this year Congress and the Senate are struggling to reach an agreement, and the inability to compromise could result in price increases as certain dairy supports expire.
Food banks throughout the United States have braced themselves for increased demand.
According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Ohio Association of Food Banks distributed $227 million in food to residents in need in 2012 and will not be able to make up a $190 million deficit in 2014.
University of California, Santa Barbara’s on-campus Food Bank, which is open to registered undergraduate and graduate students, offers non-perishable food and toiletries to students.
Erick Lankey, a third-year economics and accounting major and AS Food Bank Committee Chair, weighed in on the SNAP cuts. He emphasized the impact on individuals with strict dietary needs.
“Even though the cuts may seem small [up to $36 for a family of four, $11 for an individual], they affect everyone on the program, especially those who may have certain dietary restrictions,” he said. “Food that meets these requirements is usually less available and more expensive in grocery stores.”
Lankey does not expect to see a huge surge in the number of people utilizing the AS Food Bank services.
“I could see students possibly taking out more items when they come into our space or using the service extra days of the week,” he said. “But probably not a huge surge in sheer number of people.”
Time will tell of the further effects of the cuts.