The SNAP Lifeline

IMG_0162SNAP. Basic Food. Food stamps. Whichever name you know it by, you know it as the lifeline for many families to get their basic food needs met. Starting this month, about 200,000 King County households will see drastic cuts to this vital resource by as much as $90 per month. These cuts will affect SNAP beneficiaries who have heating and cooling utility costs included in their rent or mortgage payments, making their families even more food insecure through the end of the year.

“Why is this happening?” you may be wondering. Good question. In February, Congress passed the 2014 Farm Bill, limiting options for states to provide utility assistance to households. Because SNAP benefits are calculated in part by how much utility assistance a household receives, an estimated one-third of Basic Food recipients will see a cut to their benefits.

The good news is Governor Jay Inslee opted to implement a new program that will put SNAP benefits back where they were. The bad news is it will not be implemented until January, leaving some families without the means to meet their basic food needs for two months.

Despite receiving notifications about these temporary cuts, we expect many families will be confused.

These substantial cuts to Basic Food benefits will force clients to have to make some tough choices, especially with winter and the holidays approaching. Some families may be forced to choose between having enough food for the month, or buying warm clothes and jackets for their kids. Many parents may not be able to afford to buy holiday gifts for their children. Many are likely to fall behind in their rent, and some parents will skip meals to make sure their kids get enough to eat.

As we’ve seen with previous SNAP cuts, the burden often falls on food banks to bridge the gap. Because of this sudden increased stress on food banks, food supply may run low and clients may not receive as much as they normally would.

SNAP is one of the most essential tools Americans living below the poverty line have to help feed their families. When SNAP comes under attack, so do our efforts to help people meet their basic food needs. When benefits are cut, families are cut off from the vital resources that allow them to put food on the table.

By Bailey Toth
Bailey Toth is a Lutheran Volunteer Corps member and is completing her year of service as the Food Bank Specialist in the Polack Food Bank. She graduated with her BS in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She is passionate about social justice, vegan cooking, reading, being active in the community and cats.

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