Nearly half a million people who receive food stamps but still do not get enough to eat would lose their eligibility for the program under proposed cuts that are expected to be taken up again by Congress. An additional 160,000 to 305,000 recipients who do get enough to eat would also lose their eligibility and the ability to adequately feed themselves. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/us/politics/house-plan-on-food-stamps-would-cut-5-million-from-program.html?ref=us In total, about 5.1 million people would be eliminated from the program.
cuts to the program, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would not only affect the ability of low-income households to feed themselves but would also increase poverty.
The combination of poverty and a lack of food would lead to increases in illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure among adults. In children, the cuts would lead to higher rates of asthma and depression. Diabetes alone could increase federal and state health care costs by nearly $15 billion over the next 10 years.
“The SNAP program has implications for health, and we wanted to make sure that health is part of the debate,” said Dr. Aaron Wernham. “There is a large body of public health research which shows how food insecurity affects health.”
The report comes as Congress is working to pass a new farm bill. A Senate bill passed in May would cut about $4.5 billion from the food stamp program, mainly by changing the eligibility requirements.
The House has approved a farm bill this month that for the first time since 1973 did not include the food stamp program. The food stamp program has become a target for conservatives in Congress as it has grown over the past decade. Nearly 48 million people currently receive food stamp benefits, and the program costs about $80 billion a year.
The Agriculture Department says that fraud rates are low and that the people who receive the benefits need them because of a tough economy.
“These are the poorest of the poor,” said Kevin Concannon, under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services at the Agriculture Department.. “In many cases, these are people who are working who just can’t make ends meet.”
“It’s a trade-off between paying for rent, medicine or food,” Dr. Wernham said. “Policy makers need to understand what the health impacts are going to be if they make the kinds of changes they are considering to the SNAP program.”