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Community Development , Homelessness

SNAP (Food Stamps) is a Program That Works

30 August 2013

SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known to many of us as Food Stamps), has taken quite a hit lately by some who believe it isn’t needed. It is.

Who’s using SNAP?  As of July 2013, there were close to 359,764 people or 215,393 households in Connecticut on the program.  That’s about 11% of the population, or 1 in 9 people.  These are not people looking for a hand-out as they’ve been portrayed in the media of late. Almost 61% are in families with children, more than 33% are in families with elderly or disabled members, and about 33% of all SNAP recipients are in working families.

For new SNAP recipients who worked in the year prior to receiving benefits, 96% worked after starting the program.  The program worked as intended – to help people get through life’s hurdles knowing that there is food available.

Eligibility is determined by taking a person, or a family’s, gross income (before any tax or program deductions are applied) at 185% of the federal poverty level.  For a family of four, that amounts to $3,630.63.  Remember that’s gross income per month.  And that’s the cutoff point. So many more have less. 

If a family or household (people who cook together) meet this test, then there are deductions taken out to determine how much in SNAP benefits they’ll ultimately receive. While it’s a supplemental food program, most people need it as their main source of food.  It frees up other money to pay for other family necessities -- so much so that SNAP cuts extreme poverty in half for those in extreme poverty (living on $2 per day per person) who have cash income and SNAP, as opposed to those with cash only.  

Connecticut had the 5th highest increase in child poverty last year, and more children (19.2%) are registering as food insecure – meaning they lacked assured access at all times to enough food for healthy, active lives.

What’s really shocking for a state as wealthy as Connecticut?  77% of households receiving SNAP in Connecticut have income below the poverty line (about $22,000 for a family of four in 2012) and 37% of households are in deep poverty.  An average of $4.50 a day for food says to me that no one is gaming the system for easy living.  

Lucy Nolan is the Executive Director of End Hunger CT!

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