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In The Bank

Posted on Thursday, October 18th, 2012

While the campaigns to select the 45thPresident of the United States continue, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (better known as The Farm Bill) remains in limbo. This bill is the primary food policy tool of the Federal government, and is thus very important to the state of hunger in America, and those food insecure households who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) to put food on their tables.

The debate over the next Farm Bill has become a contentious topic during many campaign stops across the country. The House Agricultural Committee has proposed that the next Farm Bill would contain cuts to SNAP of $16 billion over ten years. The senate version of the bill would cut it by only $4.49 billion. While these kinds of numbers may be hard to visualize, the blow families who rely on the program to make ends meet during tough economic times would be staggering. In many cases, SNAP is the deciding factor keeping families out of food insecurity.  And SNAP is proven effective in helping households overcome food insecurity and get back on their feet, aiding them through a tough time on the path towards financial security.

While SNAP’s impact on the issue of hunger is of primary concern to The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the rest of the emergency food network in our region, the economic implications of large cuts to SNAP could also prove devastating. The USDA estimates that for every $5 of SNAP spent on food, more than $9 of local economic activity is generated. SNAP recipients use their benefits to purchase groceries at supermarkets, produce at farmer’s markets, and milk at convenience stores.  That money is then put in the hands of business owners, who in turn pay distributors and employees who in turn buy goods, services, and pay taxes. Removing $4.49 billion dollars out of the SNAP program ostensibly removes $1.79 billion dollars of economic activity, something we as a country, and especially those struggling with food insecurity, cannot afford.

Think about the impact the higher, $16 billion cuts would have.

In a House resolution drafted by James McGovern (D-MA) to protect SNAP, the critical benefits of the program are outlined:

-     SNAP served more than 46 million people in May 2012

-     Half of all new SNAP participants receive benefits for 10 months or less and 74 percent left the program entirely within 2 years

-     SNAP would have lifted 3.9 million Americans, including 1.7 million children, out of poverty in the 2010 Census if its benefits were included in the official measures of income and poverty

-     Each $1 billion increase in SNAP benefits is estimated to create or maintain 18,000 full-time equivalent jobs, including 3,000 farm jobs

You can read the full resolution here


Take a look at The Food Bank’s SNAP Outreach page to learn how SNAP is used in our community.

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