Food is expensive, and it’s getting more expensive. I know what my family of four spends a week on food. I am grateful that I not only have the means to buy enough food for us, but that I also have the means to buy healthy, whole foods for us. I have never once had to choose between paying a bill or feeding my family, and I hope I don’t take ever that for granted.
There are millions in this country who do have to make that choice weekly, and many of those people rely on government assistance to help put food on the table. Earlier this week, the House Agriculture Committee slashed spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) over the next 10 years. These cuts aren’t a done deal because the Senate is not likely to approve them. But, the federal government isn’t the only agency capable of cutting food assistance. Individual states can, too.
In Pennsylvania, the government is beginning a rolling assets test for people who receive SNAP. CBS News reports that the tests begin next week.
Starting next week, the state will begin a rolling review of food stamp recipients. Families with $5,500 in assets — or $9,000 for households with seniors or disabled individuals — will be disqualified from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the formal name for food stamps.
Assets will not include a home, retirement accounts, or a primary car, according to Philly.com, but savings and other assets would be included in determining if SNAP benefits would remain.
In response to this, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and three Pennsylvania state legislators pledged yesterday to live on $35 worth of food for the next week. Five dollars a day is the average benefit in Philadelphia.
SNAP is supposed to be a supplemental program, meaning that the SNAP benefits are not supposed to a person’s or a family’s only funds for food, so the politicians who are trying to make due with the $35 for the week are probably spending less than someone on SNAP would.
The politicians realize that their one-week experiment does not “come close to replicating the actual hardships faced by many low-income families,” but “it does offer a glimpse into their lives.”
Take that $35 a week away, and many former benefit recipients will have to cut out fresh fruits and vegetables, something that improves health and most likely lowers health care costs.
I am always overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem of food insecurity in our country, the resistance of some politicians to see a belly full of good food as a basic human right, and that we waste at least 30 percent of the food grown in this country in the midst of all this food insecurity. It’s a convoluted, broken system. I don’t have the answers to fix it, and stories like this make me frustrated and a little sad.
But, I do appreciate the symbolic effort that Mayor Nutter and the other politicians are making to help bring awareness to the problem. At least I know there are some politicians out there who care about the problem of food insecurity and hunger.