SNAP budget cuts expected; program's future looming
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, feeds over ten thousand families in our area.
One in six people in the greater Chattanooga area rely on federal assistance to feed their kids. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, feeds over ten thousand families in our area.
With potential cuts in funding on the horizon, some families are nervous about their future. President Trump's proposed 2019 budget includes plans to cut the SNAP program by more than $213-billion over the next 10 years, which is nearly 30 percent. It would change how benefits are delivered and leave about four million Americans no longer eligible for the program.
As a single mom, working a full-time job, Kristy Reynolds represents the average food stamp recipient in the Tennessee Valley. Over 18,000 families across the 20 counties the Chattanooga Area Food Bank serves rely on food stamps. Kristy, who works in a local school cafeteria, has relied on them for 10 years.
“I work, but I still don't meet all the bills and things like that," Reynolds said. "This helps me take and provide for my kids.”
Kristy shops a few times a month. She allowed our camera to follow as she purchased what she needed to feed her 6 year-old and 17 year-old daughters.
“Some people think you don't have to manage when you have food stamps," she said. "But you still have to manage when you have food stamps.”
Each month $480 is loaded on her EBT card. She plans ahead to make it last.
“Being a working single mom, I need it to go as far as it can and last as long as it can.”
She pays out of pocket to cover what is left when the money runs out.
“I have to take and put a little in, which is normal, a lot of people have to do that,” she said.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a family the size of Kristy’s, with moderate spending habits, spends on average more than 780 dollars a month on food (787.60).
Kristy receives roughly $160 a month per person. Divide that by three meals a day.
“That is less than three dollars a meal. Try living off less than three dollars a meal a month. It's tough,” said Laura Kilpatrick with the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.
She says there are few restrictions on the kind of food you can buy with food stamps.
“It really allows the client to live like any other American. If you look at what you have in your grocery cart every week and maybe you have a SNAP recipient behind you, and they have something very similar in their grocery cart. It is a part of our culture. They are buying based on our culture,” said Kilpatrick.
Kristy keeps convenience in mind when shopping. She lives in an extended stay hotel, and uses a microwave to cook. Spaghetti is a family favorite.
“It should last for two or three days,” said Reynolds.
Kristy hopes to have a kitchen of her own soon. She plans to move into an apartment, but worries proposed cuts to the food stamp program might not make that possible.
“Are we going to do rent? Or am I going to pay part of the rent? That helps me take and not be able to do that as much.”
Kilpatrick is worried for food bank clients like Kristy. Last month, President Trump directed federal agencies to review public assistance programs and strengthen work requirements.
“Families that have kids over the age of 6 years old still have to have someone working in the home. Whereas now if you have a child in the home that's up to age 18, those families do not have to have someone working in the home.”
Kristy is hoping her employment helps. Because cuts could force her to choose between things her family needs. “What am I going to do to pay this bill? Are we going to go without lights? Or are we going to go with food?” said Reynolds.
If cuts to the program are approved, people could see less funds as early as October.
The Chattanooga Area Food Bank has added a SNAP program coordinator to help program clients understand the program, use it wisely, and navigate the proposed changes.
If you would like more information about the SNAP program contact (706)-330-4562.