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USDA's My Plate

By Zemzem Ainan, Bellwether’s Administrative Assistant.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program commonly referred to as SNAP, is a federal aid program that provides food purchasing assistance for people who are low-income or have no income. SNAP is the largest nutrition assistance program and its caseload has increased substantially as a result of the recent economic crisis, in addition to rising food prices. Both of these challenges make it that much harder when it becomes the main source in obtaining food for some.

This past November across the board cuts were scheduled for the SNAP program. For example a household of four receiving $668 per month would see a decrease of $36 per month to their purchasing power. According to this report,  the previous benefit levels were seen to be quite inadequate. Cutting these benefits now will push more families into deeper hardship. “This includes 22 million children in 2014, 10 million of whom live in ‘deep poverty,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Report on August 2nd, 2013. Many of the households that will be negatively impacted include households with children, elderly people, and folks living with disabilities.

On February 4th the farm bill was finally passed by the House and Senate, and signed by President Obama three days later. According to this New York Times article, the poor did not fare as well. “Anti-hunger advocates said the bill would harm 850,000 American households, about 1.7 million people spread across 15 states, which would lose an average of $90 per month in benefits”, due to cuts to the SNAP program.

With the current climate that very low-income families are facing, it looks to be an uphill battle to stretch their resources even further to cover their basic needs. It’s very likely that some households will have to make a choice between food and paying rent. If households facing this hardship had affordable housing available to them, they might be on a better footing to face such new challenges. When families and households have access to affordable housing near schools, health providers, and employment opportunities, their basic cost of living is brought down. When the cost of transportation and commute time can be cut, along with cost of living, households can then have a better chance of adapting to cuts to their purchasing power. Low-income households may not have any control over cuts on federal and state benefits, which can negatively impact their lives and well-being. Having access to affordable housing, gives low-income households the ability to have some control over their basic needs, and the ability to cover their basic household expenses when such cuts are administered to such programs as SNAP. Affordable housing may not be a cure-all or even available to everyone who needs it, but it can be a life preserver for the working poor in creating stable homes for their families; allowing them to be able to handle and manage situations such as the cuts to the SNAP program.

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