For the working poor who depend on food stamps to feed their families, it’s hard enough keeping up with inflation, let alone the steep price of food these days. Even in the richest country on Earth, the cost of basic foods has a huge impact on families that count every dollar, and benefits simply aren’t keeping pace.
A divorced mother of two, [Christina] Hall receives $219 a month in food stamps; the fastidious inspection of her cupboards and the dollar-by-dollar addition she does in her head are the only way she can make the allotment last through a month.
At a time when food prices are soaring, a growing number of Americans are struggling financially and local social service agencies are seeing record numbers of applicants, advocates are concerned that the purchasing power of food stamps has shrunk since 1996, when Congress recalculated benefit levels. The result slowed the value of food stamps relative to inflation. If benefits had kept pace with inflation over 12 years, a family with one working parent and two children would be receiving an additional $37 a month, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based think tank.
To qualify for food stamps, recipients must have an income below 130 percent of the federal poverty level, or less than $22,880 for a family of three.