Feeding America Responds To House Budget Proposal Urges Congress to Maintain Funding for Federal Nutrition Programs

March 20, 2012

Earlier today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled his budget proposal for 2013. Like the House budget proposal for 2012, the plan would convert the Supplement Food Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) into a"block grant" program. The likely result of this harmful proposal, which was estimated last year to cut funding by nearly 20 percent, or $127 billion over ten years, is that millions of people would be lose their SNAP benefits, or see them significantly reduced.

"We are deeply disappointed that the House Budget Committee has again proposed to cut and restructure SNAP in its spending proposal for 2013. With 1 in 6 Americans currently struggling to put food on the table, and millions of families unemployed or scraping by on reduced wages, SNAP and other federal nutrition programs provide a critical lifeline," said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America."Rather than attempting to gut these programs, Congress should be focused on how to strengthen and protect them during this time of tremendous need. We must protect vulnerable families against hunger."

Block granting SNAP would prevent the program from responding to fluctuations in need by placing a harsh and arbitrary cap on spending. The current program structure allows SNAP to grow when need grows, as it did so effectively in the recent recession. As the number of unemployed people increased by 94 percent from 2007 to 2011, there was a 70 percent increase in SNAP enrollment.

Further, SNAP benefit levels are already inadequate to last many participants through the month. Cuts to benefit levels are equally unacceptable. The average monthly SNAP benefit per person was $133.85 in FY2011, or less than $1.50 per person per meal, hardly enough for an adequate nutritious diet. In fact, 58 percent of food pantry clients currently receiving SNAP benefits turn to food pantries for assistance for at least 6 months out of the year, according to Feeding America's recent study, Food Banks: Hunger's New Staple.

"Food banks are already struggling to keep up with tremendous need. Any cuts to SNAP would only increase the number of people turning to local charities for assistance, and already over strapped food banks would not be able to make up the difference," Escarra said.

The House Budget Resolution also proposes to reconsider the terms of automatic cuts scheduled to go into effect in January 2013. The House budget proposal recommends restructuring the sequester to lessen cuts to defense spending, which would necessitate either deeper cuts to other non-protected programs or subjecting protected programs like nutrition assistance to cuts.

"Congress rightly protected nutrition assistance programs and many low-income safety net programs from sequestration when it approved the Budget Control Act last year. Our nation has a long-standing, bipartisan commitment to protecting low-income programs during deficit reduction, and the protections afforded to low-income people by the Budget Control Act should not be eroded," Escarra said.

Earlier today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled his budget proposal for 2013. Like the House budget proposal for 2012, the plan would convert the Supplement Food Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) into a"block grant" program. The likely result of this harmful proposal, which was estimated last year to cut funding by nearly 20 percent, or $127 billion over ten years, is that millions of people would be lose their SNAP benefits, or see them significantly reduced.

"We are deeply disappointed that the House Budget Committee has again proposed to cut and restructure SNAP in its spending proposal for 2013. With 1 in 6 Americans currently struggling to put food on the table, and millions of families unemployed or scraping by on reduced wages, SNAP and other federal nutrition programs provide a critical lifeline," said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America."Rather than attempting to gut these programs, Congress should be focused on how to strengthen and protect them during this time of tremendous need. We must protect vulnerable families against hunger."

Block granting SNAP would prevent the program from responding to fluctuations in need by placing a harsh and arbitrary cap on spending. The current program structure allows SNAP to grow when need grows, as it did so effectively in the recent recession. As the number of unemployed people increased by 94 percent from 2007 to 2011, there was a 70 percent increase in SNAP enrollment.

Further, SNAP benefit levels are already inadequate to last many participants through the month. Cuts to benefit levels are equally unacceptable. The average monthly SNAP benefit per person was $133.85 in FY2011, or less than $1.50 per person per meal, hardly enough for an adequate nutritious diet. In fact, 58 percent of food pantry clients currently receiving SNAP benefits turn to food pantries for assistance for at least 6 months out of the year, according to Feeding America's recent study, Food Banks: Hunger's New Staple.

"Food banks are already struggling to keep up with tremendous need. Any cuts to SNAP would only increase the number of people turning to local charities for assistance, and already over strapped food banks would not be able to make up the difference," Escarra said.

The House Budget Resolution also proposes to reconsider the terms of automatic cuts scheduled to go into effect in January 2013. The House budget proposal recommends restructuring the sequester to lessen cuts to defense spending, which would necessitate either deeper cuts to other non-protected programs or subjecting protected programs like nutrition assistance to cuts.

"Congress rightly protected nutrition assistance programs and many low-income safety net programs from sequestration when it approved the Budget Control Act last year. Our nation has a long-standing, bipartisan commitment to protecting low-income programs during deficit reduction, and the protections afforded to low-income people by the Budget Control Act should not be eroded," Escarra said.


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