Let’s do something constructive!

Beneath the tsunami of “Obamacare Failure” coverage, a significant event occurred November 1st, and most people aren’t even aware of it.  For reasons that are too complicated to detail here, the temporary increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”, aka “food stamps) implemented in 2009 as part of the federal government’s economic stimulus program, expired.  For those who, like me, haven’t followed the details of SNAP, here’s the basics:

  • As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, SNAP was temporarily increased, with the design that the increase would phase out as inflation pushed the cost of a FDA-determined minimum food basket to the increased level.
  • The SNAP increase served a two-fold purpose:  pump cash into our struggling economy, and help those who found themselves in a financial bind due to the economic downturn.
  • In 2009, experts expected food basket inflation to cause the benefit to expire in 2014.  Subsequent government decisions accelerated that expiration to Oct 31, 2013.
  • Inflation hasn’t met expectations, resulting in a real cut in benefits:  $36/month for a family of four.

That may not sound like a lot, but when you consider that based on the FDA’s food basket calculations which value a meal for one person at $1.70-$2.00, that equates to approximately 5 meals that family of four won’t be getting through SNAP.  If you want to read all the details, there’s a pretty good rundown on this page.    Macro impact is that for FY 2014, about $5 billion dollars will be cut from SNAP, impacting 47.6 million people, or 15% of the US population.  (For those who are happy to see the $5 billion cut to SNAP, don’t get too excited, the money’s already been reallocated to aid states with teacher salaries and Medicaid federal matching dollars).

I’m not writing to advocate for an increase in SNAP.  The cut is a done deal (although there are new, much more dramatic cuts being discussed as part of current budget negotiations, which bear watching and future consideration.  If they are approved, the following proposal will be even more relevant, and on a much grander scale).  No, I’m calling on the readers of this blog to demonstrate their compassion and love for their fellow man, and to prove that we can offset cuts in government programs by stepping up to provide private support.  Google “SNAP cut food bank” and you’ll get hundreds of articles from across the US where local news sources have interviewed food bank managers who are trying to prepare for the increased demand resulting from the SNAP cuts.  The bottom line is that local food banks are already tapped out, so they don’t currently have the resources to make up the gap caused by the latest cuts.

So let’s help them out.  Find your local food bank.  Many churches sponsor one, and many areas now have consortiums that work together to provide more food, more efficiently.  You can donate money, time, or both.  Here’s the cool part:  That $1.70-$2.00 for one meal that the FDA calculates?  My local food bank can provide SEVEN meals for $1.00 through efficiencies generated by buying in bulk, wholesale pricing, etc.  You can make up that $36 cut for a family of four with just a three dollar per month donation!  [I did the math multiple times:  $36 equates to roughly 20 meals (18 meals at $2, 21 meals at $1.70).  $3 at the food bank buys 21 meals.]

Too often I hear people railing about government assistance programs needing to be cut.  Well, this one was, and people are going to miss meals because of it.  We can fix that.  Will you?  I’d invite everyone to give some, but I’d really encourage you to give sacrificially–$3/ month would be nice, but how about $20?  Or $50?  Or giving up one day off a month to go help in the facility?

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” –Jesus, quoted in Matthew 25:31-46

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