Bill status threatens program
The Federal Farm Bill hasn’t moved forward in the House or the Senate. This leaves the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) in limbo with funding.
The funding for the SNAP program comes through the Farm Bill, said Washington County Public Health Department Administrator Danielle Pettit-Majewski. The Senate has proposed a $4 billion budget cut to the Farm Bill and the House has proposed a $40 billion budget cut over the next 10 years.
A decision has to be made on the budget by Dec. 13, and by January the Washington County Department of Public Health should know more about how it will affect the program, she said. Either cut would affect the SNAP program detrimentally, she said.
“It’s just disheartening,” Pettit-Majewski said.
In Iowa, 421,000 individuals use the SNAP program. Of that number, 174,000 are families with children and 69,000 are disabled or elderly, Pettit-Majewski said.
“Thirteen percent of our population is on SNAP benefits,” she said.
She said she is bothered the most by the impact it would have on people’s health if the program receives budget cuts.
“There is no greater need, except for water and air, and this cut doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Pettit-Majewski said. “So they might cut $4 billion or $40 billion to this particular program, but that cost is going to be somewhere.”
The program gives people who qualify for assistance $1.40 per meal per individual each day, Pettit-Majewski said. The average amount of benefits for a month for a family using the SNAP program is $259.
“Trying to live on $1.40 per meal means you’re eating a lot of Ramen, a lot of macaroni and cheese, and a lot of pre-packaged high salt, high saturated fat, high carb, simple sugars,” she said.
If the funding is cut to the SNAP program, the ramifications will be seen elsewhere, such as in a person’s health, Pettit-Majewski said. Obesity and diabetes will rise and the health care costs will increase.
“It’s really frightening,” she said. “We are trying to put an end to the obesity epidemic this is definitely going to throw a wrench in that.”
The economy as a whole would be affected if the Farm Bill weren’t passed, Pettit-Majewski said. The dairy industry is already being affected. If a farm bill isn’t passed to supplement dairy farmers, prices for a gallon of milk could reach $8, which would impact anybody who is a milk drinker, Pettit-Majewski said.
“It’s one of those things where it’s making the healthier option harder and more expensive,” she said. “That’s where I think, from a public health standpoint, it’s really frightening.”
She encourages people to contact their congressional leaders to let them know how the budget cuts to the SNAP program and possibly not passing a farm bill would affect them. The National Organizations for County and City Health Organizations (NACHO) has an e-mail template that people can fill out and send to their congressional leaders.