As more and more Americans fall into or near poverty income level, congress is debating a new Farm Bill which will impact on the ability of people to feed themselves and their families:
While the legislation will set farm policy and impact food prices for the next five years, many forget that roughly 80 percent of the funding in the bill goes to providing food for the country’s less fortunate. At the end of 2012, according to the USDA, there were nearly 48 million people on food stamps.
In the Senate Agriculture Committee Tuesday, lawmakers passed its version of the bill, while the House Agriculture Committee will begin marking up its bill Wednesday. The versions of the key legislation remain vastly different in how they handle the country’s food assistance program, and will need to be reconciled before current regulations expire in September.
The Senate’s legislation would make about $4 billion in reductions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, during the next decade. The House version would cut five times as much – $20 billion through the same time period.
According to a new report from the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU’s School of Law, one in six Americans are facing food insecurity (pdf):
The united states is facing a food security crisis:
One in six Americans lives in a household that cannot afford adequate food. Of these 50 million individuals, nearly 17 million are children. Food insecurity has skyrocketed since the economic downturn, with an additional 14 million people classified as food insecure in 2011 than in 2007. For these individuals, being food insecure means living with trade-offs that no one should have to face, like choosing between buying food and receiving medical care or paying the bills. Many food insecure people also face tough choices about the quality of food they eat, since low-quality processed foods are often more affordable and accessible than fresh and nutritious foods. Food insecurity takes a serious toll on individuals, families, and communities and has significant consequences for health and educational outcomes, especially for children. Food insecurity is also enormously expensive for society. According to one estimate, the cost of hunger and food insecurity in the United States amounted to $167.5 billion in 2010.
Additionally, the report shows that the existing program a fail. as Aviv Shen notes in her article at Think Progress:
(T)he four biggest food assistance programs fall short for as many as 50 million food insecure households. Eligibility requirements are already so strict that one in four households classified as food insecure were still considered too high-income to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Even families considered poor enough for food aid only get a pittance that runs out quickly; for instance, the maximum benefit for a family of four is $668 a month, or a little under $2 per meal for each family member.
To demonstrate the impossibility of surviving on food stamps, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) recently spent a week eating on $4.80 a day, mainly consuming ramen noodles, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a banana. “I’m hungry for five days…I lost six pounds in four days,” Murphy said upon concluding the experiment. He also realized that nutritious food and produce was far, far out of reach for people living on SNAP benefits. Indeed, obesity and related diseases are common among SNAP recipients who simply can’t afford nutritious food.
Co-author and faculty director of the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU’s School of Law, Smita Narula was a guest on Democracy Now with hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez.
Transcript can be read here