Forget conservative fantasies of food stamp beneficiaries living high on the public dole and feasting on king crab legs—life on food stamps is anything but luxurious.
The average daily food stamp benefit is $4.44, which as you might imagine is almost unworkable. It’s very difficult for beneficiaries not to go over that amount each day, and data collected by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that 90 percent of benefits are redeemed by the twenty-first day of each month. So the last week of the month is particularly rough for people who rely on food stamps:
That’s worth reflecting on during this Thanksgiving week—a holiday known almost exclusively for its food, and one that always falls during the last week of the month. Having anything resembling a proper Thanksgiving meal on $4.44 per person is already basically impossible, and most beneficiaries are over-budget by this point anyhow.
Remember, too, that on November 1 food stamp benefits were reduced thanks to indifference by both Democrats and Republicans towards the already paltry benefit amount. So this Thanksgiving is even tougher than years’ past, and the upcoming winter months will be as well. Nonprofits that serve the hungry are buckling under increased demand.
And a quick look at local news stories around the country shows it:
From Newton, Massachusetts:
The season of feasting has begun. But even as some pore through cookbooks in search of the perfect stuffing, nearly one in eight residents of Massachusetts worry that the food in the cupboard won’t last until the end of the month.
The problem is growing and it’s not just in the poorest urban neighborhoods. Hunger exists in every community, including Newton. According to Tracie Longman, the Newton Food Pantry regularly serves over 450 households in Newton, providing food to over 600 people a month. That represents an increase of approximately 25 percent over two years ago.
Local pantries and soup kitchens throughout New York were stretched thin even before a cut in federal food stamp benefits took effect Friday. Now, their managers don’t know how they’ll meet the increased demand.
“There’s never enough food,” said Jeanne Blum, executive director of the Westchester Coalition for the Hungry and Homeless. “There is an increased demand, definitely. The cuts are really devastating to families who are in need of food for their children.”