In a blistering Washington Post guest editorial, the recent rollback of assistance to millions of Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka Food Stamps) translates into a devastating, but simple fact this holiday season: "Many Americans will eat too much and many others won't have nearly enough."
In the current issue of Boise Weekly, we examine how, on Nov. 2, one in seven Americans instantly became less food-secure (BW, News, "More Need, Less Help," Nov. 6, 2013).
At the height of the recession, a just-inaugurated President Barack Obama announced in 2009 that, as part of an economic stimulus package, food stamp participants would receive a 13.6 percent boost. But the U.S. Congress opted to let that supplemental assistance lapse, in spite of the fact that participation remains high.
As of Oct. 1, there were 221,717 Idaho food stamp recipients, representing 13.9 percent of the state's population. There are nearly 46,000 participants in Ada County and more than 41,000 participants in Canyon County. Together, the two counties total 39 percent of all Idahoans participating in the food stamp program.
Alexandra Ashbrook and Patty Stonesifer, two D.C.-based advocates for the hungry, write in this morning's Post, "It is a testament to the powerlessness of America’s poor and our growing economic and political divisions that so little attention has been paid to this change—particularly by policymakers. To those affected, the impact is immediate and devastating."
And the two authors say that while many Americans donate to food drives during Thanksgiving and Christmas, those donations need to be kept in perspective. "The SNAP program provides about 20 times as much help as the entire charitable food network," they wrote. "That means when SNAP benefits are cut by 5 percent, charitable organizations have to double their contributions across the nation to keep up."