There will be a marked increase in food insecurity in Pittsburgh and throughout the country on Nov. 1 when benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program decrease due to the expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act. Those who rely on SNAP will have greater difficulty meeting their everyday nutritional needs.
Who gets these benefits? More people than you think. Working families (40 percent of those receiving benefits are employed), the young, the elderly and the disabled all receive SNAP assistance, including 2.1 million children. For both children and adults, SNAP prevents anxiety over where the next meal will come from, allowing for more focus on jobs, schoolwork and other productive activities.
Soon a family of four can receive a maximum of $632 per month in SNAP benefits. This contrasts with the $634.30 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has calculated to be the lowest amount needed for the thriftiest of families to feed itself. This doesn't include the time and effort required by these struggling families to plan such low-cost meals. Combined with the recent closures and consolidation of food pantries that are part of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, this worsens the plight of children who are already hungry.
How can you help your neighbors? Contact Reps. Tim Murphy, Keith Rothfus and Mike Kelly to join Mike Doyle in agreeing that SNAP is essential to the health of our communities. Food insecurity is a real issue being faced by real people, but it is an issue we all can help address.
AVIVA ELYSE DIAMOND
The writer is a student in the health care policy and management master's degree program at the Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon University and an intern at the Consumer Health Coalition.
First Published October 17, 2013 8:00 PM