July 19, 2019 | 87° F

SNAP program faces budget cuts

The nation's poorest citizens who depend on food assistance may struggle, especially this winter.

Anywhere between 500,000 to 1 million people will be cut off from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 23 states over the course of 2016, according to cbpp.org.

Formerly known as food stamps, SNAP is New Jersey's nutritional assistance program that helps low-income families buy food, according to the Department of Human Services website. SNAP-ed provides nutrition education to increase the food security of New Jersey residents.

The cuts are being made due to a three-month limit on SNAP benefits for unemployed adults between 18 and 49 years old, who are not disabled or raising children, according to an article on cbpp.org.

The individuals affected will have their food assistance benefits cut off after three months, regardless of how hard they have searched for work, according to the article.

For many, the loss of food assistance will cause severe hardships.

The adults affected generally have limited education, skills and job prospects, according to the article. These cuts will only make it more difficult for them to find a job. Additionally, imposing a time limit has been proven to cause even more people to lose benefits.

These low-income New Jersey adults are going to be forced into choosing between food and other things, like medication and housing that may be necessary to survive, said Debra Palmer, a professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences.

“For most, their only options will be to go to food pantries and soup kitchens, many of which are already stressed, and/or to appeal to their friends, family and faith organizations for help,” she said.

But others have no one who is in a position to help, she said, and this will be an extremely humbling experience.

“There are no ‘plans’ to raise money or avoid making cuts,” Palmer said. “This is a topic that is a strong point of contention among policy makers in (Washington), D.C. Additional waivers could be put into place, however, unless citizens put pressure on their legislators and state government.”

The New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, a statewide network of more than 100 organizations working to end hunger, includes a proposal to counteract the SNAP cuts in its 2016 legislative agenda, according to their press release.

Nearly 900,000 New Jersey adults in more than 450,000 households benefit and depend on SNAP, but receive about $116 per person each month, which does meet their nutritional needs, according to the press release.

On Jan. 11, advocates called on New Jersey to acquire a federal waiver for food assistance in order to prevent the many individuals from losing their food assistance.

Although New Jersey does not qualify for a statewide waiver, NJAHC seeks to obtain waivers for many states in order to prevent these adults from going hungry.

NJAHC also aims to provide employment, training, outreach, information and monthly reports to SNAP participants, according to the press release.

Across New Jersey, food pantries are open fewer hours and limit the number of times people can come to them for help because they simply do not have food to give them, said Adele LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition in a testimony.

New Jersey communities and residents can no longer support them and the state must step in, she said.

The budgetary cut is a positive decision, said Baruch Silberstein, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. She believes the cut would not be necessary if food-assistance recipients were more frugal with their spending.

"Many recipients are using food stamps to buy the most expensive food choices in a supermarket, such as steak and lobster," he said. "There should be a limit regarding what people can use food stamps for."

Noa Halff

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