The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, provides food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people living in the U.S. It is formerly known as the Food Stamp program. It is the largest food safety net program in the US costing $76.4 billion in 2013 to provide 47.6 million Americans an average of $133/month of food assistance.
Take that monthly benefit, divide by 4, and you have about $33.98/week. That’s why I only get $33.98 this week to eat – I’m walking in the shoes of what 47,600,000 other fellow Americans face every day.
“SNAP recipients are lazy, fraudulent welfare queens”
Living in the conservative South I have heard similar lines like that before. Whenever I hear the subject of food stamps come up it is usually to disparage the recipient’s work ethic, honesty, or character. Rarely, however, have they ever met an actual food stamp recipient. Or, if they have it is a story about fraud. When I press to ask if they approached and shamed the person for their fraudulent behavior, it has always been revealed that the story was through a friend of a friend (of a friend). What kind of friends are they keeping?!
What I rarely hear, unfortunately, are the far more likely successes of SNAP. Whether those shameful stories are fact or myth, what is reality is that there are millions of daily successes.
- The story of the single mother … who even though works 40 hours a week with no holiday or vacation for her minimum wage of $7.25/hr is still below the poverty line. Her child needs basic nutrition to ensure they have an opportunity to grow up healthy. 42% of SNAP recipients are single mothers.
- The story of the newly-minted parents … where the father lost his job and the mom is home raising the two newborn. The parents didn’t have but $2,000 in savings before they were surprised with the layoff. He hasn’t been able to find a full time job, despite doing odd jobs here and there. More than 80% of SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult work in the year prior to or the year after receiving SNAP.
- The story of the household of four … that despite both parents working full-time, aren’t able to earn more than $30,000 income. To be eligble for SNAP a household must be within 130% or below of the poverty line.
The 47,600,000 characters of all these stories rely daily on the assistance offered by SNAP to help them meet basic nutritional needs.
Snapshot of a SNAP recipient
- 83% percent of SNAP households have incomes at or below 100 percent of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013). These households receive 91% of all SNAP benefits.
- 83% of SNAP benefits include a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person.
- The average SNAP household has about 2 people, with a gross monthly income of $744 and countable assets of just $331.
- Participants must also meet work and citizenship requirements.
- 90 percent of SNAP benefits are redeemed by day 21 of the benefit period – meaning most SNAP benefits are not enough to last recipients all month.
To bring it to a more local level, what does a SNAP recipient in Georgia look like??
- 87% of households receiving SNAP have income below the poverty line (about $22,000 for a family of four in 2012), and 46% of households are in deep poverty, with income below 50% of the poverty line.
- Nearly half of SNAP recipients are children, and nearly 1/4 are adults living with children.
The reality is that in a few days my grumbling stomach will be fed well. I won’t be hurt from years of malnutrition. I won’t have to feel shameful about needing some help. The reality is that in a country as wealthy as the U.S, no one should.