Front Burner Blog

2010-2014: Hunger Safety Net Trends

In a three part blog series, we examine Western Washington’s hunger safety net, which is made up of food banks and meal programs throughout the state as well as government funded programs like SNAP, school meals, WIC, and programs for seniors. With Food Lifeline’s Missing Meals report, we are able to get a comprehensive look at how the safety net meets the needs of hungry Washingtonians, while also taking into account how much work is still left to do.

Although the overall number of meals provided by the safety net did not change dramatically between 2012 and 2014, with a closer look we see that the places those meals come from changed, affecting the meal gap in real ways. Significant changes to the economy and policy over the past four years can be seen especially in the number of meals from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and food banks and meal programs. 

During the last Farm Bill reauthorization, big cuts were made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and an additional reduction in benefit levels with the end of a boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009 meant a decrease of 47 million meals from 2012-2014. The number of people enrolled in the program? It barely changed.

On the ground, food banks and meal programs have continued to see increases in client visits in the past years, but we were not able to quantify the impact of cuts to SNAP. These figures show that even though food banks provided 11 million more meals last year, it was only 1/4 the decrease from SNAP meals. This closer analysis helps us to understand why the number of missing meals has not started to decrease in our region, and how the entire hunger safety net needs to be strong in order to effectively fight hunger. Increases from one program are easily off-set by cuts to others. We need to support both the organizations on the ground who are providing food and the funding from all levels of government that support that work and provide food benefits directly to hungry people.

 

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