People in more than one in six Georgia households endured serious problems affording adequate nutritious food at some point last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said this week. Of 644,000 Georgia households experiencing this food insecurity, some 248,000 experienced very low food security – meaning that one or more household members had to eat less food at times during the year because they could not afford enough of it. Georgia remains one of the leading states for food insecurity, an undesirable distinction the state’s held for more than a decade.
The agency’s annual report shows too many of Georgia’s families are still struggling to make ends meet, and is further proof that food assistance remains critical for many families, seniors, disabled and unemployed Americans.
One of the most powerful weapons against hunger is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). About 1.9 million people in Georgia – almost half of whom are children – participate in SNAP and use the benefits to help put food on the table each day.
SNAP benefits are a modest boost, providing about $1.50 per person, per meal. Even so, they have a significant impact in reducing poverty. In 2011 alone, SNAP helped to lift 4.7 million Americans, including 2.1 million children out of poverty, based on the federal government’s Supplemental Poverty Measure.
This week’s report is yet another reminder the economy still has not fully recovered from the recent deep recession and that thousands of Americans continue to struggle with job loss, reduced wages and poverty. Yet, as early as next week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to consider legislation to significantly cut SNAP funding by $40 billion over 10 years. That could eliminate basic food assistance for up to 6 million Americans, including children, seniors, the unemployed, veterans and working families. These cuts would come in addition to an already scheduled cut in benefits for every SNAP recipient beginning November 1. That’s the scheduled end of a modest boost to benefits included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help struggling Americans and boost the economy.
This week’s report shows proposed cuts to SNAP would be incredibly damaging to Georgia families. The pain would be felt by unemployed Georgians using basic food assistance to feed their children while they look for work. The fallout would be felt by Georgia seniors, forced to choose between purchasing life-saving medication and eating. And the contemplated SNAP cuts would fall heavily on working single mothers who do not make enough money to put food on the table. SNAP provides a lifeline to vulnerable people when they need it most.