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Ear to the Ground

$5 Billion Cuts in Food Stamps Effective Friday

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Posted on Nov 1, 2013
woodleywonderworks (CC BY 2.0)

Charities and food activists have warned for months that the expiration of stimulus funds for food stamps Friday will affect every U.S. household that depends on them.

The Guardian reports:

Other emergency food providers in the US are preparing for an influx of struggling families across the country who have been warned their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or Snap benefits, will be cut on Friday. Feeding America, the hunger relief charity, describes the scale of the cuts, $5bn a year, as representing about 2 billion meals a year and warns that the effect will be “close to catastrophic”.

The cuts are the result of the expiry of the fiscal stimulus legislation of 2009, which increased Snap benefits to provide a spur to the economy. The cuts will be unprecedented in depth and breadth, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a non-profit thinktank, and they will happen automatically, affecting every household in the US which qualifies for Snap. The US Department of Agriculture estimate there are 47 million people on food stamps, a number that includes 22 million children and 9 million people who are elderly or have a serious disability, according to a recent report by the CBPP. There are 1.9 million people on Snap benefits in New York alone.

“It’s a very, very difficult time,” says Stephen Grimaldi, the executive director of New York Common Pantry, the city’s largest emergency food provider. “We’re bracing ourselves. We certainly know that we are going to see another increase in numbers by the end of the month.” NYCP served 25 percent more people in the past three months than in the same period last year. With 200 volunteers to serve 38,000 individuals, staff fear the worst is yet to come.

The cuts will take away the equivalent of 21 meals a month for a family of four. “What we traditionally see is food stamps are never enough to get through an entire month,” says Grimaldi, citing the cost of living in New York. “It will exacerbate what people are already experiencing.”

Triada Stampas, the senior director of government relations at the Food Bank for New York City, the largest food bank in the U.S., says the cuts would take away the equivalent of 76 million meals in New York City alone, the exact number provided by her organization. “We would need to double our output to make up for it,” Stampas says. She expects the demand driven by the cuts to be so high that the food bank may be forced to ration its supplies, The Guardian writes. “The decision to turn a person away, to shut the door while there is still a line, is not a decision taken easily. But we may see rationing, perhaps smaller meals.”

“There is a real risk of hunger growing in our city and across the nation and of people going without and that’s a scary, scary thing.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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