Oh SNAP! Reduced Food Stamps Are a Feminist Issue

The Senate has voted to cut funding for SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. Over 40 million Americans receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. In 2014, the assistance for a family of three will drop by about $50 a month. This is going to hit low-income women hard.

SNAP statistics don’t break down recipients by gender, but we can connect the dots. It’s no secret that poverty is a women’s issue. Thirteen percent of U.S. women were living in poverty in 2008, compared to 9.6 percent of men, according to the National Women’s Law Center, [PDF] and a similar poverty gap exists in every state in the country. Overall, more than 15 million American women live in poverty.

Annie Lowry at the Washington Independent called the SNAP cuts “unprecedented,” and did a breakdown of the pain it will cause:

American food stamps are not generous, averaging only $4.50 a day even after being bumped up in the recession-era stimulus–less than you’d need to buy two meals at McDonald’s. And since the start of the recession, the number of families depending on them has skyrocketed.

SNAP is losing $6.7 billion to help offset increased funding for teachers’ jobs and Medicaid. A tough trade, right? Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.) said the White House thinking was that since the cost of food hasn’t risen as expected, people wouldn’t go hungry.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein explains how poor the Senate’s decision is:

But you really can’t think of a worse program to cut than SNAP. SNAP is an extraordinarily well-targeted stimulus. It goes to poor households, for something they need to buy. According to Mark Zandi’s numbers, it’s literally the most stimulative way to spend a dollar: Better than state and local aid, or unemployment insurance. You get more than $1.70 of economic activity for each buck you put in.

If cutting SNAP wasn’t upsetting enough, Klein also points out how messed up U.S. spending priorities are:

Bernie Sanders put up an amendment last month to cut about $35 billion in oil and gas subsidies. It failed.

So while our nation continues to subsidize oil companies, women and kids will find it even tougher to get the help they need.

ABOVE: Sign in a Brooklyn deli. Photo from Flickr user clementine gallot. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

[UPDATE: This piece has been updated to correctly state the drop in assistance for a family of three. Please note the correct text, above.]


  1. This post is right on target that SNAP cuts are a terrible idea that will hurt low-income people, particularly women, while also putting a drain on our efforts to stimulate the economy. It's also absolutely correct that there are better ways to reduce the deficit and thus to secure offsets for teaching jobs and Medicaid.

    Unfortunately — and I say this with great pain as someone who cares deeply about SNAP as a feminist issue — there's something else we have to keep in mind.

    The SNAP cut is going to happen no matter what. Chances that the SNAP cut will not be enacted if this bill fails are essentially zero. We're going to lose this fight, this time. But it's worth remembering that this is probably our last chance to get the funding for Medicaid and teaching jobs before the November elections.

    In my opinion, feminists and people who care about poverty issues — and I'm proud to say I'm both — should still ask their congressional representatives to pass this bill.

    Then, we need to fight like hell to get the SNAP funds back. For now, though, state fiscal relief to support education and health care is what we can win. So let's win it.

  2. Melissa Shaffer says:

    Thats Obama care for ya, to fund his health care plan and Medicaid, those of you that voted for him….enjoy

  3. This isn't quite right. The original link to The Washington Independent indicates that a family of 3 can expect their benefits to drop by about $50. That is different than benefits dropping *to* $50. This distinction is crucial for accuracy.

  4. This is a terrible idea. $50 dollars can buy a lot of food. They should have cut their own paychecks instead of foodstamps.

  5. I think this cut is an opportunity for change.

    There is a slow food movement underway, which is aimed at reforming the way low income families consume food. I've seen programs at Glide and Compass Family Services, both in San Francisco, which strive to teach families how to prepare nutritious and inexpensive meals at home.

    It is an absolute myth that eating healthy is expensive. We need to teach people how to get back to basics. Frozen dinners and processed foods are not the answer. We already know that 75% of disease is caused by poor nutrition. By teaching families to prepare healthy meals we are also decreasing the probability of disease.

    If you're looking for ways to help families living in poverty, check out Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Lots of great tips to get the ball rolling.

    • I wholeheartedly agree, LAB! I haven't seen the movie yet, but have learned to adjust my way of eating as well. I switched to a healthier diet, growing my own & eating less of the prepackaged goods that are sold so "cheaply"@ the cost of our health & environment!

  6. It actually isn’t a myth that eating healthy is expensive. A bag of bleached, enriched, bromolated flour is $1.97, while a bag of whole kernal graham (whole wheat) flour is $2.96. I bake my own bread to reduce the cost of eating bread, and it’s more expensive to make bread that is actually good for you than just plain old high carb white bread. I don’t know how much more basic you can get than baking your own bread. I suppose if I grew the grain and milled it myself . . .

  7. It's not a myth that eating healthy is expensive, or low-income families would have figured out how to do it! Growing your own food is great, but who says they have the time, the space, or the tools to do that? Can a family living in the city plant a garden? Probably not.

  8. Ok so I am on food stamps and let me just say that what they give me for a fmaily of 7 is so much that I ALWAYS have extra. I just keep letting them build up and around the holidays, I buy things and take them to a food bank because some people can NOT receive food stamps. Here is the deal, if you are middle class and can not qualify for food stamps, well then you are SOS. So the Rich does not need them, the poor will always have extra that they are going out and selling (irregardless if they are on a card or not) them as well as eating better then the middle class, and the middle class are SCREWED.

  9. My friend used to be middle class, and because they made $57 too much a year they did not qualify for food stamps, so is what her and her husband did was got divorced and applied as seperate households since he is NEVER there do to his job, and she got food stamps. It is sad that someone has to resort to that. But her husband was always gone, on the road, had to use money that he made to shower, eat, and sometimes even sleep, and the Food Stamp office never takes that sort of thing into account. Just a sad situation.
    But to those of us who use food stamps, there is NO WAY that a $50 deduction is going to hurt you. You all eat better then some people who are rich. Come on be honest and get over yourself.

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