Statement by Valarie Shultz-Wilson, CEO of Connecticut Food Bank
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a rule that will cut SNAP benefits for nearly 700,000 unemployed and underemployed people in the US, leaving too many people unsure how they will access healthy, nutritious food in the new year.
Connecticut’s Department of Social Services estimates approximately 25,000 people in Connecticut could be cut off from this vital food source. It’s a lump of coal delivered at holiday time for some of the most vulnerable people we serve.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a proven anti-hunger program that provides millions of people struggling against hunger with critical food assistance. SNAP provides a small amount of money, usable only for food, that helps people stretch already limited resources and might prevent choosing between housing or medical care and food.
The average monthly SNAP benefit per person in Connecticut is about $33 per week.
Nobody is getting rich on SNAP, and nobody is getting a free ride. The new rule issued by the USDA, despite the objection of organizations and individuals across the nation who are affected by this change, will eliminate a benefit that is already impossibly small for many.
It sends a signal that our most vulnerable are on their own; our government is unwilling to help.
The rule would eliminate from SNAP eligibility any individual without dependents deemed “able to work” but not working a minimum of 20 hours per week. Currently people in this category are able to receive benefits for a maximum of three months in a three-year period. Not exactly what anyone would call sustainable.
They also represent the smallest segment of the SNAP population, at 15% nationally.
You might ask what the fuss is about. Can’t people get work? The economy is doing okay. Data shows, and the people visiting our network of partners and programs show as well, that a large number of the 25,000 people potentially affected in Connecticut already do work. But they struggle to piece together enough part-time hours in low-wage jobs to make ends meet. They are shut out from opportunities outside their neighborhoods by an aging, inadequate, and expensive public transit system. Theyhave health issues – often aggravated by poor nutrition – that limit their ability to work many jobs.
Connecticut Food Bank and our sister food bank, Foodshare, and Feeding America’s 200-member hunger-relief network will always be on the frontline working to ensure no one goes hungry.
But we cannot meet the uptick in need that will result from an immense loss in SNAP benefits. By the USDA’s own estimates, the rule will gut SNAP annually by $1.1 billion, swiping 625 million meals from hungry homes across the nation every
year (or more than 6.2 billion meals over the next decade). Research from Feeding America shows that for every meal provided by the Feeding America network, SNAP provides 12. Connecticut Food Bank and other emergency food providers will be unable to fill the gap where the federal government falls short. Connecticut
Food Bank alone sees more than 144,000 people each month visit our network seeking food.
As Connecticut Food Bank continues to deliver on its promise to feed everyone in our community, we strongly urge the USDA to consider the harm of the final rule and invest in policies that help to eliminate hunger in Connecticut and elsewhere in the nation.
And we urge you to join the fight against hunger. Tell your representatives you want them to fight USDA attempts to spend tax dollars enforcing a rule designed to deny people even a small amount of assistance in their battle for stability and success. Support the work of your food bank and the local programs we supply. It’s
a fight that matters. It’s a fight that will make a difference for people in your community.
The Connecticut Food Bank is committed to alleviating hunger in Connecticut by providing food resources, raising awareness of the challenges of hunger, and advocating for people who need help meeting basic needs. The Connecticut Food Bank partners with the food industry, food growers, donors, and volunteers to distribute nutritious food to people in need. The Connecticut Food Bank distributes food through a network of 600 partners and programs in Fairfield, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, New London, and Windham counties – where nearly 270,000 people struggle with hunger.
Last year, the Connecticut Food Bank distributed food to help provide nearly 22.5 million meals.