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Scrooge-y Food Stamp Cuts Are Hurting Families

Photograph by Getty Images

When government officials announced that recipients of food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will experience a decrease in the amount of food benefits they will receive by November 1st of this year, the announcement incited a gasp across the nation, as many food stamp recipients wondered how they will make it through the holiday season with less money.

The decrease in government aid is due to the expiration of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which increased the amount of government-funded food stamp benefits each eligible family would receive. A 2012 report showed that more than 14 percent of the U.S. population are receiving food stamp benefits.

Food Stamps Are a Necessity

Aimee Brittain, 35, is one such beneficiary of food stamp assistance. Brittain says she was nervous when she heard about the decrease in benefits and braced herself (even while feeling like crying) for benefits to be reduced dramatically. After receiving a letter stating that her benefits would only decrease by $20 she breathed a sigh of relief.

“It’s not a situation I want to be in but it’s a necessity for me and my child right now,” says Brittain, who has been receiving food stamps benefits since January after being laid off from her job. “I don’t think of it as a handout, I think of it as a hand up, because I will get to the point where I don’t need them again.”

In preparation for the upcoming holiday season, Brittain has already purchased a boneless turkey breast for $6 as the main entrée for her Thanksgiving meal.

Brittain, an Atlanta-based frugal lifestyle blogger, shares tips with readers about how to stretch their budgets through the use of savvy consumer tips, lifestyle changes and couponing.

“I am very conscientious about what I buy and how much I buy,” Brittain says. “I always take $5 to $10 of my food stamps and I buy food to go in my stockpile for hard times in the future.” Food like canned vegetables, frozen vegetables and frozen fish are stored for future consumption.

Brittain says the food stamp budget cut will not impact her family a great deal because she is an avid bargain shopper and is careful about how she spends. In preparation for the upcoming holiday season Brittain has already purchased a boneless turkey breast for $6 as the main entrée for her Thanksgiving meal which she has already stored in her deep freezer. She emphasizes that planning ahead through strategic shopping will help all families to cope through rough times.

The General Public is Grossly Misinformed

Jennifer Hornton and her husband Toby are raising their three daughters in Boise, Idaho. The 40-year-old stay-at-home mom sometimes babysits to add income to their thin family budget, and she says food stamps have been her lifeline, as well her biggest annoyance when people find out her family receives food stamp assistance.

“The general public is grossly misinformed about the subject,” Hornton says. “Because we have a roof over our heads, we are decently dressed, our kids have things and we have a home—people think we shouldn’t be on food stamps or on assistance. We are absolutely legally eligible for food stamps. What we have means nothing. Most of what we have has either been given to us or we have saved for.”

Hornton’s husband works full-time, but his income alone isn’t enough to sustain their family of five.

Hornton’s family just received a notice that their benefits would increase by $49 because Toby Hornton’s job installing windows and doors had reduced his hours and access to overtime. Due to the expiration of the ARRA, however, their increase in food stamp benefits was retracted.

Hornton’s husband works full-time, but his income alone isn’t enough to sustain their family of five. Horton says she was irritated by the news of the decrease in food stamp benefits because the food stamps would have helped to keep their family afloat during the holidays. To make up for what she says was bad news for her family, Hornton signed up for a Thanksgiving food box from her church.

We’re Not Selling Our Food Stamps to Get Our Hair Done

“When I separated from my husband I didn’t have the extra income or a large amount of child support to support my family,” says Sasha Hampton, a 27-year-old mother of three in Orlando who moved in with her mother following her divorce. “We’ve been on food stamps for five years. I can’t imagine raising my kids without them. Food stamps have been a major blessing for me. The fact that they are cutting back bothers me.”

Hampton received $500 a month in SNAP benefits before the November 1st cutback. In October she received a letter stating that her benefits would be reduced by $18 per month. “I was upset when I heard about the cut because I think there are other things they can cut back on instead of food stamps. This is affecting families and children,” she says.

I don’t buy candy for my kids. I use coupons, and I buy my kids healthy foods like grains and vegetables.

Hampton, who has experience working in the food service industry but has not had luck finding a stable job as of late, used her time out of work to write a children’s book called Waiting 4 Baby Y. She hopes her book sales will help her move forward in life and away from government assistance, because she is tired of defending herself when it comes to critics.

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“They think we only buy Kool-Aid and fried chicken and stuff like that,” Hampton shares. “That’s not true. I don’t buy candy for my kids. I use coupons and I buy my kids healthy foods like grains and vegetables. The money from food stamps is going to good use. We’re not all selling our food stamps to get money to get our hair done.”

To prepare for the holiday season Hampton says she will do what she usually does to get by: browse the weekly grocery store ads, map out the sales and use coupons on top of the sales to make sure that every cent counts.

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