Taking Food from the Mouths of Babes

groceryAs a middle-class parent, it’s impossible for me to imagine what it would be like to not have enough money to feed my kids.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – what used to be “food stamps,” but now involves a debit card instead of paper coupons – is a lifesaver for some 1.7 million families in North Carolina. About 25% of children in North Carolina live in poverty, and for many of them, the only way they get a decent amount of food is through school lunch programs and SNAP benefits.

Now the federal government is moving to cut those SNAP benefits.

Back in 2009, the Recovery Act (a.k.a. the economic stimulus) boosted the maximum SNAP benefit by 13.6% in order to help families struggling because of the recession. Now Congress has moved to end the benefit increase on November 1.

Apparently, the folks in Congress are the only people in the nation who think that hardships of the Great Recession on low-income Americans have passed. With unemployment still well above the national average and decent-paying jobs actually getting harder to find, these cuts will come as a hard blow to the 17% of North Carolinians who faced food insecurity at some point last year.

The NC Budget & Tax Center sums it up:

These cuts will hit particularly hard in North Carolina, which ranks among the top 15 states for food hardship, including a top 5-ranking for Greensboro-High Point, NC for food hardship among the nation’s metropolitan areas. For a family of three, the cuts will likely amount to $29 a month. That’s a serious loss given SNAP’s already low benefit levels and the very low incomes of SNAP participants — over 80 percent of SNAP households live in poverty. In addition, almost half of SNAP participants are children and about 1 in 4 are in families with elderly or disabled members.

 




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  1. Andrew Dobelstein

    Absolutely on target. North Carolina not only lacks foresight about how to handle these and other cuts brought about by sequestration, but our legislature and our Governor have intensified the hardships experienced by our poorest for years by their actions of the past several months. it seems unlikely we can undo the damage in the short range, but it seems to me we need to be ready to move ahead when the political climate changes, and it certainly will. I would argue for planning to begin, now, for a comprehensive North Carolina plan to reduce poverty in our state, particularly among children. For example, we need to be thinking about options to TANF, how SSI and Social Security can be enhanced for the poor in North Carolina, how our Unemployment Insurance laws can be improved, and so forth — in other words, forward thinking.


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