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Extension nutritionist downplays impact of SNAP cuts here

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

* From the Illinois Hunger Coalition and Voices for Illinois Children…

More than 2 million low-income people in Illinois who will have their food assistance cut when a boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) expires this Friday, Nov. 1. SNAP benefits will average only about $1.40 per person per meal after the cut.

The cut will affect all of the nearly 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, who receive SNAP. For a family of three, this cut will amount to $29 a month. That’s a serious loss given SNAP’s already low benefit levels and the very low incomes of SNAP participants — over 80 percent of SNAP households live in poverty. “I cannot imagine what the proponents of this cut are thinking since we know that SNAP has provided an important stepping stone for struggling Illinois families and the 886,000 children who will be affected by this cut,” says Diane Doherty, Executive Director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition.

In Illinois, the benefit cut through September 2014 will total $220 million, which will further undermine the economy in communities across our state as families reduce their spending at local stores. These cuts will most certainly result in more households seeking help from the Illinois emergency food network, which is already strained. A caller to the IL Hunger Coalition’s state-wide Hunger Hotline, Ms. Bunny Patterson, a senior citizen living in Lake County says, “even though I get the minimum SNAP benefit of $16, this cut will make it more difficult for me to get by. I do not understand why they would cut this benefit even more.” Ms. Patterson is one of the 349,000 elderly or disabled individuals in IL who will be affected by the cuts on Nov. 1.

On top of the across-the-board cut that will take effect on Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation cutting $40 billion from SNAP, potentially eliminating assistance for nearly 4 million people nationwide, including at least 182,000 people in Illinois – representing families with children, seniors, people who have lost a job and are unable to find work, and veterans.

“SNAP has been a powerful tool in helping to keep families out of poverty,” stated Gaylord Gieseke, president of Voices for Illinois Children. “The House-passed SNAP cuts on top of the cuts beginning this Friday would deal another significant blow to millions of Americans who continue to struggle to make ends meet as the economy continues to slowly recover. Our representatives in Congress must not ignore the hundreds of thousands of Illinois children whose nutrition and healthy development depends on SNAP. When Congress cuts SNAP, it undermines the well-being of some of the most vulnerable children and families in America.”

The legislation would provide strong financial incentives for states to reduce their caseloads, making it significantly harder for struggling families to put food on the table, and would eliminate assistance for some of the poorest Americans. The House-passed SNAP plan coupled with the November 1 cuts would deal a significant blow to millions of Americans who continue to struggle to make ends meet.

* But that’s not a problem, says a nutritionist with the University of Illinois’ Extension service

Illinois is reducing EBT payments for two million families in Illinois who get the assistance, but the smaller benefits are neither a surprise nor a problem.

The 2009 federal expansion of the SNAP program, what most people call food stamps, has expired, forcing reductions across the country, Illinois Department of Human Service’s spokeswoman Januari Smith said.

Benefits for family of four in Illinois could decrease by $36 a month, she said.

But the family won’t go hungry, still getting more than $600 each month to spend on groceries. The maximum food stamp benefit for a family of four is set to slide from $668 to $632, each month.

McKenzie Riley, a nutritionist with the University of Illinois Extension office, said that’s well above an average monthly allowance for food.

“A lot of places, (the average) is $100 per person, per month,” Riley said. “Depending of course … on what your household is made up of.”

Riley says it will cost a little more to feed two teenagers than to feed two children younger than 5.

Illinois’ average food stamp family — a parent and a child — gets $367 a month for groceries, but that falls to $347 Friday.

Cook your own food and do a little bargain shopping, and that should be plenty, Riley says.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

50 Comments
  1. - MrJM - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 11:26 am:

    FYI: It’s “Mekenzie Riley”
    http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt/staff/meklew.html

    – MrJM


  2. - Joan P. - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 11:38 am:

    “Riley says it will cost a little more to feed two teenagers than to feed two children younger than 5.”

    If that’s two teenaged boys, it’ll be a LOT more.


  3. - Linus - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 11:40 am:

    Years ago, when I was a kid, my family (single mom, two kids) had to turn to food stamps to get by, as my mother was between jobs.

    Let me assure you: The loss of $20-40 / month really DOES add-up for folks who only have a few hundred bucks a month to devote to groceries.


  4. - PublicServant - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 11:41 am:

    ===Cook your own food and do a little bargain shopping, and that should be plenty, Riley says.===

    Wow! Where do I sign up to become a client of this compassionate ex-swimmer from EIU? Couldn’t she get into Urbana? Well, they only take the best. I guess it makes sense.


  5. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 11:43 am:

    Meh, easy for Riley and Smith to say.

    The great danger, of course, is in the House, which wants to torch SNAP while keeping direct-payment subsidies to corporate farmers, including members of Congress.

    http://ourfuture.org/20130920/the-10-farm-subsidy-recipients-who-voted-to-cut-food-stamps

    You can’t make this stuff up.


  6. - Willie Stark - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 11:45 am:

    Let’s see, just doing a little math here. $632 for a family of 4 for a month = $632/4 = $158 per person, divided by 30 days in a month = $5.27 a day for food. It would be pretty fascinating if McKenzie Riley would show the state, as part of her work for the extension, how it’s done. Perhaps she could keep a blog about it that we could all follow along with. Or, maybe she and the swells at the Illinois Policy Institute could collaborate on a joint venture to prove the good eatin’possible on $5.27 per day. Willie, for his part, doesn’t think he could hack it on that budget without going hungry.


  7. - Montrose - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 11:49 am:

    “Cook your own food and do a little bargain shopping, and that should be plenty, Riley says.”

    Riley’s statements are irresponsible. They are completely devoid of context and present the issue as though it is a simple budgeting exercise, ignoring the the realities of poverty.

    I would like her to make that statement to the working poor family that relies of SNAP, making every dollar stretch, but still has to go to a food pantry at the end of the month to ensure there is food on the table as they try to balance all the other financial responsibilities their income cannot sufficiently cover.


  8. - Sir Reel - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:05 pm:

    Driving around looking for bargains is a snap what with the supplemental gas assistance program, the supplemental car purchase, maintenance and repair assistance program, the supplemental child care program, etc.


  9. - JeffingingChicago - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:12 pm:

    My food budget for our family of 3 is $700.00/month. We eat pretty well. Shop at Dominicks and Marianos mainly. Jewel is 10-20% higher. Some staples I buy at Target, but their prices are going up. Food4Less has limited selection but lower prices. We eat out once every 2 weeks (not in $700). Brown bag lunches for everyone. You do have to shop smart but I could easily make that work. The underlying problem is opportunity, energy and willingness to do it. Too easy to spend $20 a meal at McDs and then you are broke in 2 weeks.


  10. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:15 pm:

    ===Too easy to spend $20 a meal at McDs===

    Um, what does that have to do with SNAP?


  11. - Soccermom - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:17 pm:

    “Cook your own food and do a little bargain shopping, and that should be plenty, Riley says.”

    Dear Ms. Riley,

    I would strongly recommend that you read Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich. It will give you an idea of some of the constricted choices that are forced by poverty.

    Please keep in mind that it is difficult to shop for bargains if you do not have access to transportation. Many people who rely on SNAP live in food deserts, where they are forced to pay high prices for low-quality, mostly processed foods.

    Many people who are surviving on SNAP may live in cheap hotels or other living situations with limited kitchen access. That makes cooking from scratch very difficult, or impossible.

    A good number of these households are headed by single working mothers, who may be working long hours, often at two jobs, and do not have the time to make low-cost, high-quality meals. In many of these families, older children are preparing meals for themselves and their younger siblings. That limits their options for home preparation.

    I understand that your expertise is focused on nutrition rather than economics, Ms. Riley. But you would do well to learn something about real life before you go shooting your mouth off on the record.


  12. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:22 pm:

    Poverty is easy to achieve, but very difficult to maintain.


  13. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:23 pm:

    Shopping where the average cashier makes less than a living wage could be contributing to the problem. I’d rather pay extra at Jewel where I know the cashiers make a decent wage and aren’t on SNAP or Medicaid.


  14. - countyline - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:43 pm:

    Our family of 3 eats easily on $500/month, we have plenty of produce on hand, and we eat well. That being said, we live downstate so we don’t have to pay inflated Chicago prices, and we buy nearly all of our groceries at Wally World.


  15. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:45 pm:

    –…and we buy nearly all of our groceries at Wally World.—

    Wally World in Chicago closed. The moose out front should have told you.


  16. - Give Me A Break - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 12:59 pm:

    “Wally World in Chicago closed. The moose out front should have told you.”

    Get back in Family Truckster Clark.


  17. - Deep South - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 1:01 pm:

    There are more than a few people, the paranoid RWNJ types, who really believe that anarchy and rioting will run amok once EBT recipients realize their dollars are being reduced. There’s plenty of places on the Internet where you can read about this. The paranoid point out that the federal government has stocked up and is preparing for mayhem and they’re doing the same. It’s pretty funny stuff if you ask me…but so sad at the same time.


  18. - Rail Sitter - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 1:08 pm:

    The S in SNAP is for supplemental, right?


  19. - Miss Marie - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 1:23 pm:

    “Cook your own food and do a little bargain shopping, and that should be plenty, Riley says.”

    I’d like to see Riley do the SNAP challenge where you live like you’re on SNAP, eating all of your meals from a limited food budget about $1.50 per meal. After that, let’s see if she still thinks that’s “plenty.”


  20. - Ahoy! - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 1:40 pm:

    If the SNAP cuts are that little, I actually agree that it’s workable. The $632 a month for a family of four is more than my family of fours food budget and we do not get SNAP benefits and live within our own financial constraints.

    I support SNAP and support it being part of the farm bill, this reduction is really workable. If not, we need to provide some education to families on helping them deal with budgeting and cooking. That’s not a sarcastic statement, if a family of four can’t live on $632 in food we need to teach them how to.


  21. - Reader - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 2:16 pm:

    SNAP isn’t supposed to be easy or convenient, folks. Its supposed to be just enough to get by until you can improve your own situation. Anything more invites a cycle of poverty.
    And sorry, but I’m not impressed with the SNAP challengers. Jan Schakowsky was whining on twitter about how expensive it is…while trying to buy fresh brand-name chicken breasts…at Jewel. That’s not how or where those in poverty shop for their food.


  22. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 2:19 pm:

    In the 254 counties in which SNAP use doubled from 2007-2011, 213 of them went for Romney in the presidential election.

    http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-14/food-stamp-cut-backed-by-republicans-with-voters-on-rolls.html

    Well, well, well, looks like we have ourselves some commie socialist takers here.

    Romney went to the bathroom on these people with his 47% comments, and they just ate it up.


  23. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 2:20 pm:

    –That’s not how or where those in poverty shop for their food.–

    You’re right. Many have to shop in more expensive, smaller stores in food deserts.


  24. - Montrose - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 2:36 pm:

    “SNAP isn’t supposed to be easy or convenient, folks.”

    Yes, because the last thing we want is for some struggling with poverty to have things a little easier.

    The average length of time someone is on SNAP is 10 months. Providing meaningful support does not encourage folks to stay poor. It gives them the stability needed to move on.

    And if you think living on SNAP is easy, then go ahead and take the SNAP Challenge.


  25. - Demoralized - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 2:56 pm:

    ==SNAP isn’t supposed to be easy or convenient, folks. Its supposed to be just enough to get by ==

    Yeah. Food is overrated. We need to make it as difficult as humanly possible for these poor people to feed their families.

    What is wrong with some of you people?


  26. - Miss Marie - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:05 pm:

    “SNAP isn’t supposed to be easy or convenient, folks.”

    I guess you’re right. I mean it only helps people who live in poverty buy food. Hunger isn’t that big of a deal. And a lot of the people who benefit from it are children. I mean so what if they didn’t choose which family they were born into. (sarcasm)

    And I agree with Montrose–if you think it’s so easy, then take the SNAP Challenge. How many days in a row do you think you can eat Ramen?


  27. - Rail Sitter - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:08 pm:

    You people???


  28. - countyline - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:14 pm:

    -What is wrong with some of you people?-

    Back at ya, “Dem”.

    Whats wrong with insisting on a little personal responsibility ? For those with physical or mental disabilities, it may be rough, but for those who always seem to be “between jobs”, its not supposed to pay 100% of your grocery bill.

    And Montrose, making things easy for those in poverty is what keeps them in poverty. Welfare, SNAP, etc are supposed to be a safety net, not a way of life.


  29. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:19 pm:

    Here is more evidence for the need to raise the minimum wage, in my opinion. Half of fast-food workers’ families rely on public assistance, estimated to cost taxpayers $7 billion a year.

    http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/15/news/economy/fast-food-worker-public-assistance/


  30. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:19 pm:

    From the USDA”

    –Many SNAP recipients are currently employed but they still need some assistance so that they can put nutritious food on the table for their families. More than 29 percent of SNAP households had earnings in 2009, and 40 percent of all SNAP participants lived in a household with earnings. For these households, earnings were the primary source of income. - See more at: http://blogs.usda.gov/2011/06/24/fact-vs-fiction-usda%E2%80%99s-supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program/#sthash.98PqOiu8.dpuf–


  31. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:22 pm:

    ===making things easy for those in poverty is what keeps them in poverty.===

    Except who or what is making it so easy?


  32. - Illiniforlife - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:22 pm:

    When we get paid, I take out $460 per month cash for food and that’s all we spend. we live in Springfield ad have a family of 4 including one teenage son and one 22 year old son. The teenager is not receiving free breakfasts or lunches at school. While food costs may be higher in the Chicago area, part of their higher food costs may be offset by free school meals. We don’t eat out much, but when we do that comes out of the $460 per month food budget.

    I agree with Ahoy!. “If a family of four can’t live on $632 in food we need to teach them how to.” No disrespect intended.


  33. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:28 pm:

    –We don’t eat out much, but when we do that comes out of the $460 per month food budget. –

    I bet you don’t. What’s the daily meal plan look like on your $3.75 per day per person?


  34. - Demoralized - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:36 pm:

    ==making things easy for those in poverty is what keeps them in poverty==

    Yeah, because poverty is such an attractive lifestyle that people strive to be there. We are talking about FOOD for heaven’s sake. I know that assistance to poor people really gets under the skin of some people but you all might try a bit of understanding and compassion sometime in your life. I know and have known people on SNAP that have FULL TIME jobs. They are mostly single mothers and need help paying for food. My Grandma is on SNAP. Her and her stinking poor, elderly way of life. How dare she keep herself in that position. SNAP is supposed to be temporary don’t you know.

    ==Welfare, SNAP, etc are supposed to be a safety net, not a way of life. ==

    Um, do we exempt those currently on SNAP who are using it as a safety net from the cuts too? I think the cuts affect everyone, not just those people living it up large in poverty like you seem to think.


  35. - MrJM - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:37 pm:

    Children in families that rely on SNAP should have been smart like me and picked wealthier parents. Duh.

    – MrJM


  36. - sal-says - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 3:45 pm:

    I believe that every ‘expert’ who thinks $5 a day per person is enough ought to live on that for a full year. Then you’ll be an ‘expert’. Otherwise? Meh…not so much.


  37. - ultimata - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 4:21 pm:

    “A lot of places, (the average) is $100 per person, per month,” Riley said. “Depending of course … on what your household is made up of.”

    You can’t have a healthy nutritious diet on $100 per person per month. Let’s get real here. Cheap cuts of meat are often high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium nitrates. Such food increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and cancer, while causing obesity. In the long run, it is no bargain, and counter-productive to some of the medications people take these days. The other source of cheap food is high-carbohydrate junk food. Again, the nutritional value of such food is questionable and can produce negative health consequences such as obesity and diabetes.

    Unfortunately, when people have less money to spend on food, that usually means a reduction in the quality of the food, producing many of the health problems that are described above. Considering the high cost of health care, it is doubtful that the government will save any money by cutting SNAP benefits.


  38. - Reader - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 4:35 pm:

    @wordslinger

    “You’re right. Many have to shop in more expensive, smaller stores in food deserts.”

    - Please cite the name and location one of these stores that are more expensive than Jewel and is located in a food desert.


  39. - Reader - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 4:38 pm:

    @Miss Marie

    - If you think SNAP only provides enough for Ramen, then you are beyond hope for a reasonable discussion.


  40. - Reader - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 4:46 pm:

    @Montrose

    “Providing meaningful support does not encourage folks to stay poor. It gives them the stability needed to move on.”

    Depends on what your definition of “meaningful support” is. My belief is that getting enough help to get by IS meaningful.


  41. - Reader - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 4:49 pm:

    @Demoralized

    “Yeah. Food is overrated. We need to make it as difficult as humanly possible for these poor people to feed their families.”

    - Considering that is nothing like what I suggested, I’ll assume its just a knee-jerk response from the intellectually challanged left.


  42. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 4:49 pm:

    - Please cite the name and location one of these stores that are more expensive than Jewel and is located in a food desert. –

    West Side Grocery, Madison and Springfield in West Garfield Park. Give it a visit and teach the folks how to shop.


  43. - Illiniforlife - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 5:05 pm:

    WS,
    People think in terms of individual meals and per person but I look at a cost per day. We spend $60 per month for school lunches during the school year. That leaves about $13 per day for the 4 of us. Probably half a gallon of 2% milk a day $1.50). Breakfast is cereal ($2.50 per box and can get about 6 good sized portions per box), milk and coffee or eggs ($1.50 per dozen) and toast ($1.00 per loaf) and coffee, so let’s say $3 per day, and that’s generous. Lunch is usually dinner leftovers and fresh fruit (whatever is in season). Dinner is generally meat (chicken, ground beef or turkey, pork or beef), salad and dressings ($1.00 per day) or fresh, frozen or canned vegetables (depending on the season,about $1 per day), rice, potatoes or pasta and milk. Sons also make smoothies with fresh bananas and frozen fruit for snacks
    $1.50 per day ). Dessert served several times a week, brownies, cookies, ice cream, etc.

    Total per day
    $1.50 milk
    $3 breakfast
    $1 salad and dressing or $1 vegetable
    $2 fruit, $1 starch, and $4.50 meat or other protein

    I do shop sales but I do not use coupons (who has time?) WS, you’re welcome to dinner anytime. Bring Rich along too if he brings Oscar.


  44. - Reader - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 5:16 pm:

    @Wordsligner

    “Give it a visit and teach the folks how to shop.”

    Wouldn’t need to teach them how to shop, just how to walk down the SAME BLOCK three buildings to 3835 W. Madison, where ALDI is located!

    #FoodDesertFail


  45. - Cook County Commoner - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 5:27 pm:

    “Cook your own food and do a little bargain shopping, and that should be plenty, Riley says.”

    Probably one of the most callous comments I’ve seen in a while.
    I assist an older lady whose only income is SSA disability in Skokie, IL. She lives in a federally subsidized group home arrangement. No gas stove. Only microwave. No car. She relies on a PACE service which charges, I believe, $3.00 round trip in the area.
    Seems to me that Ms. Rily and her ilk include a few unfounded presumptions in their conclusions concerning mobility, cooking appliances, skill level and health of SNAP recipients.
    And from my activities with two food pantries, it appears to be that the need for food assistance is increasing.


  46. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 5:35 pm:

    Reader, one Aldi and one independent is an oasis to you? Swell.

    Go down and check the prices. There’s a cost of doing business and lack of competition that’s reflected in the prices.


  47. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 5:43 pm:

    IlliniforLife, thanks for the breakdown. Good luck to you.


  48. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 6:12 pm:

    ==Cook your own food and do a little bargain shopping, and that should be plenty, Riley says.==

    It’s hard to a little bargain shopping when the public transit round trip is 2 hours.

    ==prove the good eatin’possible on $5.27 per day==

    Maruchan Ramen. Oh, you said “good eatin’.”

    ==- Illiniforlife - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 5:05 pm:==

    Add up your figures, they are over twice SNAP per day average.


  49. - Fed up - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 6:38 pm:

    SNAP isn’t ment to be anyones sole source for food. That’s why the S is for supplemental. It’s is ment to supplement your income.


  50. - wordslinger - Thursday, Oct 31, 13 @ 10:50 pm:

    –Sorry to break it to you, but you lost on all points. Next time do your research.–

    What research would that be? Do you have a white paper on the sweet life on food stamps? A master’s thesis on the cornucopia of supermarket choices in West Garfield Park?

    Don’t hide your light on a bushel, daddio.

    Since Lehman Bros. went down in Sept. 2008, you could read the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times every day and see a chronicle of the recklessness, cynicism and greed of the Masters of the Universe who drove the world economy into the ditch, wiping out home equity, savings and jobs.

    Unfortunately for us in the United States, they did it at the same time we were financing two Asian Wars on the credit card.

    To try and put deep fiscal and economic problems off on SNAP is demented. It’s part of what Gov. Kaisich would call the “war on the poor.”

    “I’m concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor,” he (Kaisich) told the Times’ Trip Gabriel. “That if you’re poor, somehow you’re shiftless and lazy.”

    “You know what?” he added. “The very people who complain ought to ask their grandparents if they worked at the W.P.A.”


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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