Recently, I traveled to San Antonio, Texas to interview Virginia, whose story illustrates the important role SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) plays in the lives of 48 million Americans.
This program, formerly known as the Food Stamp program, is the federal government's first line of defense against food insecurity in the United States. It is the most reliable source of food support and we here at Feeding America work to accelerate low-income families' access to these benefits.
Virginia and her family depend on food stamps to make it through a tough period of their lives. Their story truly captures why we do the work we do, and why SNAP is a critical resource to our neighbors in need.
Virginia and her family are clients of Feeding America and the San Antonio Food Bank:
My husband and I worked full time at the same job for 16 years. When we got laid off, we thought it was the end of the world -- little did we know that would be the least of our problems.
A month after losing our jobs, our oldest son, Roger Jr., was diagnosed with stage five of chronic kidney disease. Everything changed -- hospital visits took over our lives. Between the two of us, we couldn't find a job that would enable us to take care of Roger's needs and the needs of his little brother -- there was hardly any work to begin with. Our money ran out and we had nothing.
We never thought we would have to ask for help, but life doesn't always go as planned. We applied for food stamps, and we are very grateful for the support. Roger received a kidney transplant a year ago, but unfortunately, complications keep him in the hospital regularly. His body may be rejecting the kidney -- we're not sure, there's a lot to worry about. Thanks to food stamps however, one thing we don't have to worry about is feeding our kids.
At first, I cried about losing our material possessions -- our home, our cars, etc. But now, none of that matters -- my family is what is important. We could be living in a box on the street, but as long as we're together and healthy and fine I'd be happy. Home is wherever we are together.
This past fall, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a farm bill including $39 billion in cuts to the SNAP program over 10 years and the Senate voted to cut $4 billion. The average SNAP benefit will drop from its already meager $1.50 per person per meal to less than $1.40 per person per meal. Therefore, a SNAP family of 4 will have an average of $432 less a year to spend on food.
In addition, most participants already run through their SNAP benefits by the third week of the month, with 90 percent of SNAP benefits redeemed by day 21 of the month. Any additional cuts to SNAP would only make it more difficult for families to get the resources they need to obtain an adequate diet throughout the month.
While we are deeply disappointed that both these bills include cuts to SNAP, we had a strong showing on the floor from members voicing opposition to the bill and support of the nutrition title.
The House and Senate will continue to work toward a compromise to each of their proposed bills, and will determine the amount of funding that will ultimately be cut from families like Virginia's and other Americans in need. Therefore in the next few weeks, Feeding America plans to support SNAP funding by increasing our advocacy efforts and furthering awareness of the need.
For more information on the SNAP cuts and how you can help make a difference click here.
Cisco, in partnership with Feeding America, developed a new online food distribution system, which could enable Feeding America and its member food banks to provide millions of additional meals for people struggling with hunger. For more information visit http://csr.cisco.com/casestudy/feeding-america.