Government food assistance not enough for families

Photo+of+produce+at+Walmart+taken+by+Blass+Guerrero.+

Photo of produce at Walmart taken by Blass Guerrero.

Blass Guerrero

Nov. 13, 2022

Gas and food prices have increased as inflation continues to rise this year and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Some have no choice but to purchase high-cost foods while others try to look for cheaper options.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 82% of Americans are eligible for the Food SNAP Program, 74% are working poor, and 42% are elderly. In the state of Texas, 75% are eligible, and Texas comes second in the nation with the highest number of households using the SNAP program, with 1.1 million people. In the city of Amarillo, 9,115 people, or 12.1% of the population, receive food stamp benefits.

In an interview with The Hill, Jordan Teague, policy director at anti-hunger organization Bread for the World, says families with lower incomes will be impacted first.

“If people need to pay rent or they have a medical bill, they have to make tough decisions about what they’re not going to pay for, and frequently that means buying cheaper but less healthy foods or not buying as much food,” Teague said.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says $550 per month is the average cost of food per month for the typical American household.

Due to the increased cost of food, some families have to rethink what goods they purchase at that time. Amarillo resident Jenna Green says things are getting too expensive but doesn’t qualify for government assistance.

“Why is it that I couldn’t afford that I worked 40-plus hours a week for a multibillion-dollar company,” Green said. “I don’t qualify for food stamps, and my kids don’t get Medicaid because I’m over income.”

The annual inflation rate for the United States is 8.2% for the 12 months ending Sept. 2022 after rising 8.3%, according to the U.S. Labor Department data published on Oct. 13.

You must be 16-59 years old to qualify for food stamps. However, suppose you are over the age of 60 or people with disabilities. In that case, you can apply to the Texas Simplified Application Project (TSAP), which makes the SNAP application process more accessible and provides three years of benefits.

Depending if the person works at least 20 hours a week, benefits might be more extended or in a job or training program. Those who have a disability or are pregnant some adults may not have to work to get benefits. Most adults ages 18 to 49 with no children can get food stamp benefits for only three months in three years.

For one person, the most income you can earn is $1,775 per month to qualify for food stamp benefits in Texas. For each additional person, the maximum monthly income increases by about $625.

Households receive SNAP benefits on electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, which can be used only to purchase food at one of about 254,400 authorized retail locations around the country, including some 20,900 in Texas, including United Supermarkets and Walmart.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a typical household’s average spending on food in 2021 is $8,229 or about $685.75 per month. This is a $973 increase from 2020, with $7,316 in annual food spending.

Anastas Lorraine, an Amarillo resident who currently receives food stamp benefits, says the benefits have not caught up with the increase of inflation, causing food prices to increase.
“I’ve actually been someone who has worked and is not qualified for food stamps and has to struggle,” Lorraine said. “The amount of food stamps is not keeping up with inflation at all and it is not helping prevent family hunger in the U.S.”

Both Green and Lorraine said that during the COVID-19 pandemic they were able to work and able to purchase groceries without a problem. Lorraine was able to qualify for food stamp benefits just this year after her job cut her hours. Green currently works two jobs in order to provide for her children.

“I work full time and I can’t afford everything that I need to be able to afford,” Green said. “I know taking a second job will not help me get food stamps, but I want to make sure my children have for school and to eat.”

Food Stamp benefits have increased year after year. In 2019, the average benefit per household was $258.03 per month; in 2022, it’s at $442.39 per month. While the government has been about to provide more relief every year, inflation has been the top issue for many trying to put food on the table. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that in a weak economy, $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.50 in economic activity.

Blass Guerrero
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