‘Back to one meal a day’: SNAP benefits drop as food prices climb

Originally posted on NPR.

And for hints of long-term effects, look no further than the Great Recession. After Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, SNAP benefits went up for all recipients by at least 13.6%, according to Children’s HealthWatch. The boost was meant to be temporary, but experts studying the benefits say it ended too soon to make its intended impact. A policy brief by Children’s HealthWatch found:

Under ARRA, SNAP benefit levels were not intended to be adjusted again until food price inflation caught up with the increase, which was estimated to occur at the end of 2014…

On November 1st, 2013, monthly SNAP benefits for all program participants were cut. The total national cut was approximately $5 billion — decreasing the SNAP amount allotted per person from approximately $1.70 per meal to approximately $1.40 per meal. For a family of four the monthly benefit decreased by about $36, equivalent to about 21 meals per month. The effect of the decrease was not offset by funding other programs because a) young children do not benefit from school meals as they are not in school and b) school-age children need to eat nutritious meals outside of school hours as well as at school. Ultimately, by cutting SNAP to fund these programs, young children were placed at greater risk of food insecurity.

“We saw kids stop growing, being in fair-to-poor health and their caregivers being in fair-to-poor health,” Sandel said. “So this is really a family issue. Think about what SNAP is. It’s the largest anti-hunger program in the United States. It’s an evidence-based tool for ensuring families put food on the table.”