Skip to main content

Cuts will take food off the table for 47 million Americans

By Bob Aiken, Special to CNN
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
Volunteers prepare food at a soup kitchen run by Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries in May in Waterbury, Connecticut.
Volunteers prepare food at a soup kitchen run by Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries in May in Waterbury, Connecticut.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Food stamp benefits will be cut about 5% starting Nov. 1
  • Bob Aiken says this will hurt America's struggling families, and more cuts could come
  • Aiken says food banks won't be able to fully take up the slack
  • He says Americans already often use up food stamps and need help from food banks

Editor's note: Bob Aiken is chief executive of Feeding America, a nonprofit organization that seeks to feed the hungry through a national network of member food banks and also fosters efforts to end hunger.

(CNN) -- In the last few weeks, the media has been ablaze with news of the government shutdown, the debt limit and health care reform. Missing from most public debate, however, is the cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits that will take place on November 1 and will affect every one of the more than 47 million Americans who depend on the program to help meet their basic nutritional needs.

When the changes are implemented, everyone enrolled in the SNAP program will see their benefits cut. For example, a family of four that qualifies for the maximum monthly benefit will lose $36 a month -- that's a 5% reduction.

While this may not seem like a lot, I speak from experience when I say $36 provides much more than you might think. This past September, I participated in the SNAP challenge.

Bob Aiken
Bob Aiken

For a week, I stuck to a budget of about $1.50 per meal, the average SNAP benefit for one person. It was a tough week. I found myself drained and constantly thinking of food.

When the SNAP cuts take effect next week, benefits will average about $1.40 per meal. I can't imagine the strain this will place on struggling families who are counting every penny and trying to stretch their benefits.

Eatocracy: The food stamp challenge

Most families do not have enough to make it through the month already -- 90% of SNAP benefits are redeemed by the third week of the month and 58% of food bank clients currently receiving SNAP turn to food banks for help at least six months out of the year.

The upcoming cuts will result in an increased need for food assistance at food pantries and soup kitchens across the nation when many are already stretched meeting sustained high need in the wake of the recession.

Panera CEO takes food stamp challenge
McDonald's helpline: try foodstamps
John King: We were on food stamps

At Feeding America, we're doing everything we can to prepare our network of food banks for the increased demand, but charity alone cannot make up for the impending $5 billion loss in SNAP funding. The reduced funding will result in the loss of nearly 1.9 billion meals in the next year. That's more than half of Feeding America's total projected output for 2014.

The cuts this week are significant and will put a strain on millions of families struggling with food insecurity, hitting them right before the holiday season. Adding to this is the fact that Congress is considering much deeper cuts to SNAP benefits and eligibility restrictions that will affect millions of low-income people as part of the farm bill.

In September, the House passed legislation cutting $40 billion in SNAP over the next 10 years, according to a Feeding America analysis. Together with this week's cuts, the pending legislation will result in a loss of nearly 3.4 billion meals for low-income Americans in 2014 alone, according to a Feeding America analysis. These are meals our most vulnerable citizens cannot afford to lose, and food banks and other charities simply cannot fill that gap.

While we cannot stop this week's SNAP cuts, we can prevent further cuts from taking place. Call your member of Congress and tell them not to cut SNAP.

Helping our neighbors in need is a fundamental American value, and fighting hunger is a public-private partnership. We need a strong charitable system and a strong federal anti-hunger safety net. Working together, individuals, charities, business and government can solve hunger. Do your part to make sure no one in America goes hungry.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bob Aiken.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:47 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Jimmy Carter's message about the need to restore trust in public officials is a vital one, decades after the now 90-year-old he first voiced it
updated 5:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Ford Vox says mistakes and missed opportunities along the line to a diagnosis of Ebola in a Liberian man have put Dallas residents at risk of fatal infection
updated 6:21 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Pepper Schwartz says California is trying, but its law requiring step-by-step consent is just not the way hot and heavy sex proceeds on college campuses
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Mike Downey says long-suffering fans, waiting for good playoff news since 1985, finally get something to cheer about
updated 5:39 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Steve Israel saysJohn Boehner's Congress and the tea party will be remembered for shutting down government one year ago
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Yep. You read the headline right, says Peter Bergen, writing on the new government that stresses national unity
updated 11:24 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are but the latest freedom group to be abandoned by the Obama administration, says Mike Gonzalez
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT