OUR OPINION: Food spending reduction will affect real people

“(Today) 664,000 people in Mississippi will see their food assistance benefits cut, when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) expires. SNAP not only provides nutrition benefits to a wide-range of low-income households, including families with children, elderly people, and people with disabilities, it also provides a significant boost to local economies.” – Mississippi Economic Policy Center

Many community-based hunger and nutrition organizations and ministries view deep cuts in the federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly food stamps, with concern because their limited resources are the next line of defense.

Those 664,000 people in our state (doesn’t it seem likely most Mississippians would know one or two families among that number?) have reason to be concerned individually because if the deep federal funding cut stands, especially as written by the U.S. House of Representatives, empty stomachs will growl as the availability of food diminishes.

The MCEP interestingly also measures the positive impact of SNAP on small businesses.

In Mississippi, 3,477 retail stores, farmers markets and other food outlets eligible and certified to participate are in the pipeline for the SNAP program, for which they are made whole financially by reimbursement: about $1 billion in 2012 and $750 million in Fiscal Year 2013.

Because the SNAP system can only legally be used to purchase food, it is an efficient way to get nutrition off the shelves and into the hands of consumers who qualify.

The better situation obviously would be prosperity strong and deep enough to make SNAP unnecessary except on a very limited scale, but that is not likely to be the case in Mississippi anytime soon.

The first to speak up should be the recipients of the nutrition assistance, but everyone can weigh in. Everybody in the Mississippi delegation probably will end up voting on a version of this bill, and it’s a decision that cannot realistically be made in a vacuum when the impact is everywhere on the streets and in the neighborhoods of our state.