Proposed Budget Targets Hunger-Relief Program for Big Cuts

More than 43 million Americans receive food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the same program the White House hopes to cut by 25 percent over the next decade.

In total, the White House is seeking to reduce the SNAP budget by $193 billion. The cuts are part of a fiscal year 2018 budget to be released tomorrow. Reports suggest reduction would be made by tightening work requirements.

That’s concerning to anti-hunger advocates for several reasons. The biggest is that food insecurity remains widespread in the United States, effecting 13.4 percent of the population.

One of the arguments put forward by those looking to cut SNAP is that recipients are opting to collect generous benefits instead of finding work. In fact SNAP already has a work requirement: Able-bodied adults without dependents are required to work or take part in education, job-training, or “workfare” programs. Those who don’t will be dropped from the program after three months. Looking at SNAP recipients as a whole, the vast majority are either working or not expected to work because they are children, elderly, or disabled.

On top of that, the average SNAP benefit is just $126 per person per month, or $1.40 per meal. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study, the average cost of a meal is $2.94.

While SNAP enrollment reached a record level in 2011, enrollment has begun to decline in recent years. This is because, to be eligible for SNAP, a household’s income can’t exceed 130 percent of poverty. If the economy continues to improve and more Americans find jobs that pay above this threshold, enrollment will continue to fall on its own.

The best way to reduce enrollment is not to alter eligibility requirements, which could harm those in need, but to continue growing the economy.

While millions of Americans face a lack of food at some point in the year, very few face actual starvation. This is due in large part to strong federal nutrition programs, complementing the work of food banks.

But if SNAP were to be cut by 25 percent as proposed, food banks would simply be unable to absorb the increased demand. Federal nutrition programs provide an estimated 19 meals for every one meal provided by private charities. To imagine food banks could pick up the slack in the wake of a 25 percent cut is unrealistic. If that were to happen, the plight of those in need could become truly desperate.

At their best, America’s food banks and federal nutrition programs complement one another, making sure food is available to those who need it when they need it. We’ve made a lot of progress in recent years. We can’t afford to turn back now.

To learn more about SNAP, take a look at the following resources:

Get the facts about SNAP.” Bread for the World.

Map the Meal Gap. Feeding America.

Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents. USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

A quick guide to SNAP eligibility and benefits.” Center of Budget and Policy Priorities.