Farm Bill Makes ‘Significant’ Cuts to Food Stamp Program

News Release

 

[Writer] This is a UIC News podcast for the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Today we will be talking with UIC researcher Angela Odoms-Young about the impact of the farm bill on the federal food stamp program called SNAP.

[Young] About 47 million individuals receive SNAP each month. And the purpose of SNAP is really so individuals and families can afford an adequate diet. It’s estimated that about 850,000 families will lose about $90 in benefits per month.

Seventy-six percent of SNAP households include children, seniors, a person with a disability. The SNAP cuts will have a significant impact on those households. People don’t talk a lot about when they feature SNAP in the media – they don’t always talk about the seniors that will be impacted.

So, young children – families with young children that will be impacted. So I think that those populations, particularly in this economic environment, will be significantly impacted. So we will be able to monitor and see our people experiencing more food insecurity – more people showing up at pantries. That will allow us to really gauge that broader impact, on what’s going to happen in relation to these SNAP cuts.

When families lose income, we’ve already seen an increase in people using a emergency food system like pantries, soup kitchens, etc. And this could further exaggerate that effect.

In our work, we work with a lot of low-income families that receive SNAP, as well as other food assistance benefits. I think there’s a perception, even when you’re talking to a friend or people that don’t work in the area of food assistance, other researchers, they think that it’s a person that is not only low income, but doesn’t hold a job. People have a perception that individuals that receive SNAP are taking advantage of the system, that they could work but they don’t, and they’re just sort of sitting at home receiving benefits. And that really is not the case. Many families that work also receive SNAP. The thought is that, oh – to get SNAP that you have to be unemployed. That’s not true.

There’s a perception that families that receive SNAP have been in persistent poverty. That’s not always true, in the last few years, in both use of the emergency food system as well as those that have become eligible for SNAP. Many people have lost their jobs. Now they’re unemployed. So they are what many researchers refer to as ‘the new poor.’ Or ‘the working poor.’ Those families depend on SNAP to make sure they can make ends meet for their children, husbands, wives – so I think there’s always this idea that, oh – it’s those other people, it’s not me.

I also want to really clarify when people think about SNAP benefits, they think in many cases that people are receiving a lot of money per month. But the average monthly SNAP benefit is only around about $130. And that’s about $1.50 per meal per person. So, in the last few years at the Greater Chicago Food Depository as well as other colleagues that work in food assistance, or in nutrition education, they’ve taken a SNAP challenge, and they’ve tried to live on a SNAP allocation for a week.

So, many people have lived on this SNAP allocation for several years to try to make ends meet for their families. And many people that don’t receive SNAP, but they’ve taken the SNAP challenge, have been shocked at what they were not able to do, and what they could not purchase.

It would be nice if people that are listening to this really think about how would it be for your family to live on $130 per month to purchase food, or to think about $1.50 per meal per person.

The cuts that we are going to see are going to be significant. So, they may not be as significant as originally proposed, but they still will have an impact on families, and families in Illinois, families in Chicago, that receive benefits. SNAP really targets the most vulnerable populations in the U.S. We need to make sure that these programs are there when we need them.

There are many families that probably ten years ago that thought they wouldn’t need this benefit that now are in need of this benefit. And that really is concerning when you think about these cuts. The need for food assistance is already greater than SNAP can fill. So we know that the emergency food system has been in place to serve the needs of families. But we know that we’re seeing a greater number of people using pantries, using food banks, using soup kitchens. So, it’s already greater than what SNAP can fill. And now we are making cuts to SNAP.

[Writer] Angela Odoms-Young is an assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition. For more information, go to www.uic.edu/news/uicnews.