Starting this month, 875,000 people in Kentucky have less money to feed their families. They are part of the 47 million Americans who saw their SNAP (food stamp) benefits cut on Nov. 1 due to the end of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that passed four years ago.
Despite the end of the ARRA, many Kentucky families continue to struggle. With 8.4 percent of the labor force unemployed in August 2013 and 24% of Kentucky children living below the poverty line, it is clear that the economic recovery has not yet reached every corner of Kentucky.
Over three-fifths of those who receive SNAP benefits in Kentucky are children or adults living with children. In addition to children, senior citizens, people with disabilities and veterans will be hit hardest because they are the groups most reliant on food stamps.
The cut means that a family of four will lose $36 a month from their maximum monthly benefit. For families that must choose between paying for food and paying for utilities, as 34 percent of food bank clients in Kentucky have to do, such a cut is going to present a serious hardship.
We expect that the cut will result in an increased need for food assistance at food pantries and soup kitchens across the state, the same charities that are already stretched trying to meet sustained high need in wake of the recession. Food banks in Kentucky and throughout the Feeding America network are doing everything we can to prepare for that certain influx.
But this cut isn’t the last or only one that will create significant impact on families in need in our area. In September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation cutting $40 billion in SNAP over the next 10 years. Together with this month’s cut, the pending legislation will result in a loss of nearly 3.4 billion meals for low-income Americans in 2014 alone - a potentially devastating blow to many our neighbors, friends and colleagues.
While we cannot stop this month’s SNAP cuts, we can prevent further cuts from taking place. Call your Congressperson 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 Kentucky goes hungry. Visit kafb.org to learn more.
Tamera Sandberg is executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks.