Fighting for our users and opposing cuts to SNAP

“My family depends on SNAP to supplement our food budget.. Without it.. I cannot support my family… SNAP saves our lives literally every month.”

— SNAP participant and Fresh EBT user, March 2017

SNAP helps millions of American families put food on the table. Today, the President proposed a budget that would cut $193 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) over the next 10 years.Make no mistake about it: these proposed cuts to America’s safety net will make it difficult for millions of people to eat.

ThroughFresh EBT, we have a special window into SNAP’s role in helping low-income Americans put food on the table.Over 400,000 people use Fresh EBT each month to manage their benefits because SNAP participants tend to be incredibly skilled budgeters and planners.When we speak to our users, we are consistently impressed by their resilience and resourcefulness in making ends meet.

Current benefit amounts are already so low that they cause hardship for many

By analyzing our users’ aggregate spending patterns, we observe that the average Fresh EBT user spends 80% of their total benefit amount by day 8 of the month. (We partnered with Dan Ariely’s Common Cents Lab tobuild a featurethat extends this to day 10 — but it’s clear that the overall benefit amount is insufficient.) Currently, the average SNAP benefit is$126 per month, which equals $1.40 per meal. This is clearly insufficient for many, as evidenced by the significantrise in food pantry usageat the end of each month. Further SNAP cuts would put many in impossible situations.

Monthly Snap Consumption Rate Graph

SNAP dollars are spent on nutritious food

There’s misinformation out there that SNAP dollars are spent on unhealthy or luxurious food. While this myth has beenrepeatedly debunked, some politicians have used this to argue for program cuts, or to advocate for restrictions on what can be purchased with SNAP benefits. In reality, SNAP participants largely use their benefits to purchase nutritious staple foods in a way that isn’t so different from the rest of the American population. Thousands of Fresh EBT users create shopping lists within the app every day, and the top items added aremilk,broccoli,chicken,cereal, andcarrots. By slashing the program, these are the foods that we are keeping out of the pantries of low-income Americans.

Structural changes are likely to harm those in need

“SNAP benefits are important to me because a year ago I got very sick that caused me to loose my job and now I can’t work anymore…if it wasn’t for SNAP me and my 4yr old would have no food I’m very grateful.”

-Elletta H., Fresh EBT user

As a federally funded program, SNAP is available to anyone who is eligible, no matter where they live. This is hugely important: SNAP is able to seamlessly respond to economic ups and downs, and an individual who runs into financial distress knows that the program will be there. This is exactly why we call it a “safety net.” Changes to the structure of the program — like block grants or requirements that states fund a portion of benefits — will remove that certainty.

Stricter work requirements also chip away at the foundations of the program. The majority of SNAP participants are children, the elderly, and the disabled. Underemployment and unexpected job loss are a primary reason families apply for SNAP. And, we know that 90% of SNAP participants with children work within the prior or subsequent year of receiving SNAP. But, more than the statistics, we frequently hear from users that they want our help in connecting them to jobs.

To that end, Fresh EBT partners with companies and organizations that connect our users to high quality services and resources. Rather than implementing stronger work requirements to forcibly remove people from the program, we ought to create systems that help those who are able get back into the workforce.

By cutting safety net services that help the most vulnerable Americans, we are making America anything but great. Join Propel and anti-hunger advocates across the country in preserving the SNAP program so low-income Americans can continue to put food on the table.

Follow us on Twitter at @FreshEBT. Other great anti-hunger advocates who we follow and support include @FeedingAmerica, @FRACTweets, @CenterOnBudget,@CFED, and@HungerFreeAmerica.

“Without SNAP I would not be able to get enough food for me and my children. Thank you SNAP program for being there when I, and others, need help.”

— Tasha, Fresh EBT user