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from Hunger Through My Lens:  Photo by Andrea Fuller
“The stress of $50 a week — $2.40 per person, per day for one mom, two kids.”

Caring for Our Families: SNAP

The federal program, SNAP, has appeared in the news repeatedly over the last few months. For more information about this program and how it assists families in our community, I asked Carrie L. Draper, Policy and Community Outreach Director at the Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities at USC, to share her knowledge and expertise:

"I hope by this book to make you believe that hunger exists in this land, that hunger poses dangers to our nation, and that hunger is costing this country far more in dollars than the most elaborate array of feeding programs. I hope that some of the facts I present, some of the personal observations I make, and some of the examples I cite will make all of you rise and say: ‘I do believe it, and I must do something about it.”-- Ernest F. Hollings, former U.S. Senator, South Carolina Governor and author of The Case Against Hunger, published in 1970.

There are adults and children in Richland County who go whole days without eating because they cannot afford enough food. I know this to be true because they let me into their homes, whether it be a motel room, mobile home, or a two story house that they bought when they had a good job before they lost it during the Recession, and tell me about it. For nearly 3 years, I’ve had the privilege of hearing hundreds of families share their experiences with me of struggling to access food. I listen as they talk about going whole days without eating, skipping meals, cutting the size and quality of their meals, and feeling physically hungry because they can’t afford more food. For some, these experiences have been going on throughout their lives and for others they are learning to navigate within a new reality. But a common thread amongst their stories is the importance of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

SNAP is the food assistance program formerly known as Food Stamps. In a 1971 interview, Senator Hollings spoke of 19,000 families in South Carolina receiving “food stamps in the mail”. Today, over 400,000 households (approximately 18% of the state population) participate in SNAP, in which every month they receive money on an EBT card to purchase food. According to the Department of Social Services’ website (the state agency responsible for implementing SNAP), 33,209 of these households are right here in Richland County. About ½ of all SNAP recipients in SC are children, and more than a quarter of the remaining recipients are elderly or people with disabilities. Over 30,000 recipients are veterans.

To be eligible, your total household income has to be at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Level, meaning a family of 3 is eligible if they make $24,817 or less per year. In 2012 (the most recent data available), the average monthly benefit per person was $131.38.

All of these facts illustrate that the SNAP program largely allows for low-income children, elderly, and people with disabilities to have a little over $4 a day for food. As if this wasn’t already a huge challenge, as of November 2013, all SNAP recipients got a cut in their monthly benefits. This was due to a federal decision to bring SNAP funding levels back to pre-recession amounts. As a result, in SC we will experience a $93 million decrease to the SNAP program over the next year. In other words, a family of 3 will see a $29 decrease on their EBT card, or the equivalent of about a week’s worth of food for one of their family members.

The negative impacts of hunger, especially on children, are undeniable. Children who experience hunger are more likely to have diminished academic performance, mental and physical disorders, and inadequate nutrient intakes. In turn, communities as a whole are faced with a less competitive workforce and greater health costs. However, despite the recent cuts to SNAP, Congress voted this year to cut an additional 8.6 billion dollars to this vital food assistance program over the next 10 years.

--Carrie L. Draper, Policy and Community Outreach Director at the Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities at USC

If a family you know needs food assistance, please contact the Children's Room at Richland Library Main (803.929.3434) and our staff will connect them with the resources they need.


Amazon Says: In Closing the Food Gap, food activist and journalist Mark Winne poses questions too often overlooked in our current conversations around food: What about those people who are more...
Amazon Says: In Closing the Food Gap, food activist and journalist Mark Winne poses questions too often overlooked in our current conversations around food: What about those people who are not financially able to make conscientious choices about where and how to get food? And in a time of rising rates of both diabetes and obesity, what can we do to make healthier foods available for everyone? To address these questions, Winne tells the story of how America's food gap has widened since the 1960s, when domestic poverty was "rediscovered," and how communities have responded with a slew of strategies and methods to narrow the gap, including community gardens, food banks, and farmers' markets. The story, however, is not only about hunger in the land of plenty and the organized efforts to reduce it; it is also about doing that work against a backdrop of ever-growing American food affluence and gastronomical expectations. With the popularity of Whole Foods and increasingly common community-supported agriculture (CSA), wherein subscribers pay a farm so they can have fresh produce regularly, the demand for fresh food is rising in one population as fast as rates of obesity and diabetes are rising in another. Over the last three decades, Winne has found a way to connect impoverished communities experiencing these health problems with the benefits of CSAs and farmers' markets; in Closing the Food Gap, he explains how he came to his conclusions. With tragically comic stories from his many years running a model food organization, the Hartford Food System in Connecticut, alongside fascinating profiles of activists and organizations in communities across the country, Winne addresses head-on the struggles to improve food access for all of us, regardless of income level. Using anecdotal evidence and a smart look at both local and national policies, Winne offers a realistic vision for getting locally produced, healthy food onto everyone's table. less...
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