For millions of Americans and thousands of our Maine neighbors, regularly having enough to eat is not always possible. The end of the 2009 Recovery Act in November resulted in a decrease in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known as food stamps, for all families and individuals on the program. A bill in Congress is proposing to cut between $4 billion (Senate version) and nearly $40 billion (House version) more from the program over the next 10 years. In Maine, roughly 60,000 households would lose some or all of their SNAP benefits under the House proposal.
• Maine ranks third in the nation (first in New England) for very low food security (hunger), according to recent U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.
• As of January 2013, one in five people in Maine received SNAP benefits: Two-thirds of these households had one working adult; 64 percent were families with children; 17 percent were households that included a senior; and 27 percent included a person with a disability.
• Current maximums of $31 per week per person plummeted to $22 per week in November. The 29 percent cut equates to a current allocation of about $1.40 per meal.
• The Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates this reduction means the loss of about one meal per day for a family of four. For families already not eating enough regularly, this will be devastating. At present, 15 percent of Maine households struggle to afford a nutritionally adequate diet.
• Food pantries, a lifeline for thousands in the state and millions in the country, are pushed to the limit. Preble Street in Portland reports a 60 percent rise in the number of meals served over the past three years. Since the Nov. 1 cuts, they report a record 500 dinners served per night.