By Ayse Unver, PHS Urban Planner & Policy Manager
Food insecurity, hunger, and poor nutrition are inescapable realities for millions of Americans. Through the City Harvest program, we at PHS commit ourselves to providing food to families who are struggling to feed themselves. As such, we took notice when members of Congress recently pushed to cut the budget of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on top of additional anticipated benefit cuts in November.
These benefits cuts will impact nearly 47 million Americans—1.8 million of whom live in Pennsylvania (0). To illustrate just how devastating the benefits cut will be to almost 2 million Pennsylvanians, take a look at the following infographic. Data to create this graphic was taken from the Food and Nutrition Service, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the United States Census Bureau.
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A Brief Background on the November 2013 Benefit Cuts Due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Sunset:
SNAP received a $45.2 billion boost to its budget with the passage of ARRA in 2009 to both alleviate the effects of the economic downturn and provide a boost to the economy. SNAP participation rises during times of economic hardship as unemployment increases, and this budget increase was meant to support the expected increase in SNAP enrollment (1).
In addition, since 97 percent of SNAP benefits are spent within 30 days (2) and because it has been shown that for every $5 of SNAP money spent, $9 goes into the local economy (3), this additional funding was expected to provide a boost to the economy as a whole.
When ARRA was first passed, it was expected that this additional funding would end in 2014, but due to subsequent legislation, the timeline was accelerated to October 31, 2013. So come November, 47 million Americans, almost half of whom are children, will be affected by the budget cuts along with significant decreases to their monthly SNAP disbursements (4).
A Brief Background on the Passed and Proposed Budget Cuts:
In June 2013, the Senate passed the Farm Bill, which included provisions to cut the SNAP budget by $4.1 billion over 10 years (5).
That same month, the members of the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee attempted to pass the Farm Bill with about $21 billion worth of cuts to SNAP over 10 years (6). The bill was voted down. Due to disagreement about the SNAP-related part of the Farm Bill, the section on SNAP was taken out and the Farm Bill was passed without it (7). The SNAP-specific section is now being voted on separately and the new bill being proposed would cut SNAP benefits by $40 billion over the next 10 years (8).
Due to the huge gap between the Farm Bill in the Senate and House of Representatives, it seems likely that the old Farm Bill will be in place for quite some time.
In the meantime, for more than 1,000 families a week, programs like City Harvest are more important than ever for providing healthy, nutritious food.