Low-income families could see a loss of approximately 38 meals a month with the passage of new federal legislation that would reduce governmental nutritional assistance.
Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a piece of legislation that reduces funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides benefits to individuals in low-income situations so they can purchase food each month.
According to a statement from the City of Madison, the proposed legislation would reduce funding for SNAP benefits by $8 billion over the next 10 years.
This could translate to a $90 per month reduction in benefits to certain families, Mayor Paul Soglin said.
“SNAP is used as a safety net for those individuals and families that are not able to adequately feed themselves,” Soglin said. “The money is being taken out of the pockets of those in the most need.”
Soglin said the average SNAP participant in Dane County receives approximately $120 per month.
Michelle Kramer, FoodShare outreach manager at Second Harvest Foodbank, said 75 percent of families who receive assistance from SNAP have children or family that are elderly, blind or disabled.
“We’re seeing these folks who are stretched very thin in our community are being stretched even further with each cut that occurs,” Kramer said. “That’s basically saying to a child, well, it looks like you’re not going to eat dinner this month.”
The farm bill that authorizes funding for SNAP also helps recipients gain access to local food sources, the statement said.
Twenty million dollars are currently being put toward farmers’ market incentive programs where recipients receive additional benefits whenever they shop at local markets, Soglin said. Along with the cut in farmers’ market incentives, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which provides federal loans to region-based infrastructure projects, will also be cut, he said.
Soglin said the farm bill proposal does not go far enough to limit government subsidies to mega-farms, which are large, factory-style farms. He said the lack of restrictions on large farms and their insurance payments threatens to widen the disparity in income gap in America.
In the statement, Soglin urged Congress at the state and national level to “restore the deep cuts to SNAP, develop income restrictions for farm subsidies and insurance programs and move forward swiftly to fund other critical programs that increase the availability and affordability of healthy food to those most in need.”
Kramer said the new farm bill severely complicates a link between the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and SNAP. Since 2009, this link, known as “Heat and Eat,” increased benefits to some SNAP recipients in 16 states with harsh climates and high energy bills.
Kramer said under the new legislation, SNAP recipients will have to turn in “mounds of utility bills” to Dane County Human Services, rather than a standard utility allowance. Dane County Human Services will then have to go through more complicated paperwork to determine allowances, she said.
Kramer said the bill will increase funding to the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which distributes food from the United States Department of Agriculture to low-income and unemployed populations. It will also promote fruit and vegetable purchases and continue funding for nutrition education, she said.
The Senate will vote on the farm bill Tuesday.