Treasure Coast Food Bank is outraged by the House Agriculture Committee's vote to slash spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $21 billion.
Treasure Coast Food Bank and other local charities are already stretched very thin trying to keep up with increased need as families in our state continue to feel the impact of the recession. Cuts to SNAP, or food stamps, would be devastating to our community, and charities like ours cannot make up the difference.
There is no question these cuts to SNAP will take food from the refrigerators and kitchen tables of vulnerable low-income families who have not felt relief from the recession. Nationally, two million people will lose benefits entirely, 210,000 kids will lose access to free school meals and another 850,000 households will see their benefits cut by an average of $90 per month.
These cuts come on top of across-the-board cuts for all SNAP beneficiaries beginning in November that will lower benefits by about $25 for a family of three. That may not seem like much to you or me, but for a family scraping by, it matters a lot.
Our country has a long history of caring for those in need, and on the Treasure Coast, we share that responsibility. That basic American value of caring for our neighbors is at the core of every volunteer moment and every donation given. But the need is too great for charity. We need a strong federal commitment to SNAP and other hunger relief programs.
SNAP spending will constrict automatically as our economy recovers and people go back to work. But many on the Treasure Coast have not felt the benefit of any recovery. We need to ensure that families who have fallen on hard times can still put food on the table. Pulling SNAP benefits from low-income families at a time when the need for food assistance has never been greater is cruel and short-sighted.
Treasure Coast Food Bank serves 107,880 people each week, an increase of 156 percent since 2010, largely due to increased need through the recession. Food bank clients include households that have too much income or assets to qualify for SNAP but still struggle to feed their families, as well as SNAP participants whose benefits are inadequate to get them through the month.
SNAP benefits average less than $1.50 per person per meal, and more than 90 percent of benefits are spent by day 21 of the month, leaving many families to turn to local charities to make ends meet. SNAP is targeted at our most vulnerable: 76 percent of SNAP households include a child, elderly person or disabled person, and 91 percent of benefits go to households with gross income at or below 100 percent of the poverty line.
Deficit reduction is an important national priority, but it must not be undertaken with disregard to our national values and it must not come at the expense of our most vulnerable. On behalf of Treasure Coast Food Bank, I urge our local House Representatives: Representative Patrick Murphy, Representative Bill Posey and Representative Tom Rooney to oppose cuts to SNAP in the House Farm Bill and to work to restore the cuts on the House floor.
Judy Cruz is the CEO of Treasure Coast Food Bank.