Food stamps offer some financial relief at the grocery store for millions of low-income Americans, but the Trump administration wants to make them harder to get, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

The US government has proposed giving individual states more authority in how they issue food stamps that help individuals and families pay for some of the food they need each month. The move would allow states to add drug test and job-training requirements.

Food stamps — officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits — provide a small subsidy to help low-income Americans purchase groceries.

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“SNAP was created to provide people with the help they need to feed themselves and their families,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “But it was not intended to be a permanent lifestyle.”

Recent trends, however, challenge the “permanent lifestyle” notion. There has been a decrease in the number of people receiving food stamps and millions who qualify do not apply for the benefit.

About 42 million Americans — 5 million fewer than in 2013 — receive food stamps at an average of $125 per person and $252.55 per household per month, according to US government data. Some researchers estimate that the average monthly cost of food per household is about $550 while the US government estimates the monthly cost of food for a family of four at about $1270 — though food prices vary by state or city.

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Some states have established programs that encourage recipients to use food stamps at farmers’ markets. Recipients cannot purchase things like diapers, soap, and sanitary pads with their food stamps, but some advocates want to change that.

Advocates for low-income Americans say the jobs available to many food-stamp recipients don’t enable them to earn enough money to live comfortably. They say low wages and expensive housing and medical costs motivate millions to use food stamps because that means affording food that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to buy.

“SNAP is critical to getting people back on their feet during trying times when they are making choices between utilities, rent, and food,” said the director of Feeding Pennsylvania, an organization that represent food banks

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Many retired senior citizens who survive on a fixed monthly income and children in low-income families also benefit from food stamps.

“SNAP has been shown to have a positive impact on children’s health, academic performance, and long-run economic self-sufficiency,” said Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank director Lisa Scales. “As an organization poised to ensure that no one suffers from food insecurity, we know that SNAP is a highly effective nutrition and anti-poverty program.”


Defeat Poverty

The Trump Administration Wants to Cut Food Aid for Millions of Americans

By David Brand