UCC Mainstream Online

Food stamp cuts dished out for the holidays

Oregon EBT Card
Jared Hegg / Mainstream

As the clouds turn dark and rain begins to pour, many underprivileged Oregonians face another cold reality as food stamps nationwide have been reduced just before the holidays.

Recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, will feel more hunger pangs this holiday season due to an automatic cut in the program which began Nov. 1.

“I worry about the holiday season because I know so many people in this area that are really tight on their budgets,” Gary Gray, business and economics instructor, said. Gray explained that people will either forego gifts in order to purchase more food or buy more gifts and less food.

For those receiving the maximum amount, SNAP benefits decreased by $11 per month for a single household, $20 for a household of two, $29 for a household of three and $36 for a household of four, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Nonprofit organizations are concerned that the cuts to SNAP will increase and intensify the demand for food from individuals and families, which already happens to some extent during the holiday season.

“I do anticipate that with the recent reduction, we may see more requests for ‘regular’ food boxes through Project CANS, which is ASUCC Student Leadership Team’s food pantry,” Marjan Coester, director of Student Life, said in an email.

Project CANS offers food to students who are enrolled at UCC for three or more credits. The service can be accessed three times per term to receive a box that contains three meals of food.

The reduction to SNAP may especially affect UCC students. A 2009–2011 study by the U. S. Census Bureau revealed that over half of college students not living with relatives had been under poverty. In comparison, fewer than 16 percent of all Oregonians had incomes under the poverty level, according to the same study.

“We know that overall in Douglas County we have a high percentage of the population that’s a recipient of food stamps and other government programs,” Gray said, “and so anyone that’s on those programs is going to see less money each month to pay their basic bills with. So, my fear is that it will have a lot of impact on people in this area, including our students.”

Oregon is one of the top states which rely on SNAP. Approximately 21 percent of Oregon residents are using the program, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This means that Oregon, including Douglas County, will receive a greater reduction to food stamps percent-wise for the population compared to many other states.

Not only does this cut prevent millions of people on the program from finding ways to feed themselves, but it also affects the local economy as Oregon stands to lose millions of dollars.

The reductions are expected to cut food stamps by $5 billion nationally through September 2014, of which $84 million will be cut from Oregon alone.

“I think we’re going to see an impact especially on the smaller convenience stores, the small food providers. We know that for a lot of people transportation is an issue, and so many times they buy basic food items at the local corner store, which tend to be small-business owners,” Gray said.

The impact may get worse because another bill was recently approved by the U.S. House of Representatives to reduce food stamps by another $40 billion over 10 years. The bill is believed unlikely to pass the Senate however, which would mean that SNAP benefits would be safe from further cuts for the time being.

These reductions are occurring because SNAP was expanded in 2009 as just one of many programs receiving temporary stimulus from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These programs are now running out of funding.

“I think we just have to be aware that the longer this goes on, the more these temporary programs will expire, and currently, the attitude in Washington doesn’t look like they want to renew them,” Gray said, “so I encourage everyone to just be aware, stay informed and look for these types of changes.”