Have you ever kept close tabs on how much you spend each month for groceries? Or do you at least have a rough idea of what that figure is? For the millions of people on food stamps, they know the dollar amount right down to the penny. That’s because food stamps recipients get a set amount each month that rarely changes, and they’re painfully aware of just how short it falls each month. Between 2008 and 2012, recipients may have noticed an increase, however slight it was. In fact, in that four-year period, the average amount of SNAP benefits allotted to an individual increased 30%, from $102.19 to $133.42.
2008 to 2012: The Quadrennial Horribilus
We all know the one major event that struck our country hard, and sent us in a downward spiral from which we still haven’t recovered: the Great Recession. It was the worst economic event since the Great Depression, and affected just about every single citizen, no matter what their income level.
When the recession hit, people everywhere suddenly had to tighten their belts, but the poor were the most hard hit. Compared to the middle class and wealthy, which could afford to feel a few effects of the recession, the poor were left with almost no wiggle room.
How the Consequences Played Out
Let’s take two imaginary people: the first makes $50,000 a year as a paralegal, and the second pulls in $15,000 working at a fast food restaurant full-time. If you take away $5,000 a year from both of them, the paralegal will still be fine, even if they have to adjust and make things tighter. But do the same to the fast food worker, and they’re suddenly this close to being destroyed.
What This Means for Food Stamps Benefits
Just as we outlined before, those living around or under the poverty line have fewer options, so every dollar counts a lot more for them. Our paralegal may be making just over $4,000 a month, but can still qualify for food stamps if the total household income is at a certain level. However, they’d be getting more than the $133.42 we talked about, so let’s move onto our fast food worker.
Our fast food worker, needing to get by on a yearly salary of $15,000 a year, will had to have developed the skills necessary to budget her spending on groceries. And, only receiving an average of $133.42 a month, again, they have very little wiggle room for the 90 meals a month they need. The type of meals they could prepare will involve a lot of cheap, processed foods, and not enough of the daily nutrients that are necessary.
How the Numbers Break Down
A monthly allotment of $133.42 is very little, and what one person could reasonably spend on groceries in a week, let alone a month, especially when you take into consideration what constitutes a healthy diet. A few dollars for a gallon of milk, another couple for a loaf of bread, about $10 for a whole chicken and some frozen vegetables; it all starts to add up very quickly.
This isn’t even taking into account all the other expenses an average person has, like rent, utilities, phone, internet, transportation, clothes and gifts. While our paralegal could afford to buy less expensive clothes, use the bus instead of driving a car, and scale down on gifts, our fast food employee receiving $133.42 a month can’t. There’s just no room.
So before you criticize the food stamps program as something not worth investing in, ask yourself how you’d get by each day with a quarter of your current income.