BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – Beginning today, nearly 47 million people, including 22 million children nationwide, will see their food assistance benefits cut, when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) expires.
The reduction stems from the fact that a modest boost in benefits included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has now ended. While SNAP enrollment growth has slowed this year, national enrollment remains high because many families continue to face a job market that remains weak and other hardships resulting from a slow economic recovery.
“This cut in benefits is precisely the opposite course our nation should be taking to help struggling children and their families right now," said W.K. Kellogg Foundation President and CEO Sterling K. Speirn. "Our road to economic recovery is long, and we must ensure that everyone has access to good food. Indeed, healthy families are good for the economy."
Nearly 72 percent of SNAP participants are families with children. The small increase in food assistance has been critical for families, in many cases ensuring children receive meals while their parents work to get back on their feet. Poverty can contribute to decreased cognitive function and low performance in schools, likely due to the increased stress children experience growing up in families where finances are tight, according to a recent JAMA Pediatrics study.
Cuts to SNAP benefits will have a significant impact on families and communities. For instance, families receiving SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal. This cut also signals a detrimental effect for local economies. For a family of four in Michigan, the cut in food assistance will mean a reduction of about $36 each month resulting in a $10 million loss in Kent County, home to Grand Rapids, Mich., over the next year.
In Michigan, one in five children lives in a home that experiences food insecurity, according to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Project on Societal Distress. In Mississippi, nearly one in four kids lives in a food-insecure home. In New Mexico, the figure is nearly one in three children. (Michigan, Mississippi and New Mexico are priority states for the Kellogg Foundation.)
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed an additional $40 billion in SNAP cuts, which, if enacted, would come on top of the cuts taking effect today. The proposed legislation would make it significantly harder for struggling families to put food on the table, and would eliminate assistance for nearly 4 million of the poorest Americans.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create the conditions where vulnerable children can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. Follow WKKF on Twitter at @wk_kellogg_fdn.
Read the report SNAP Benefits Cuts for All Participants in November 2013, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.