Op-Ed: Food Stamp Cuts Threaten Long Islanders


snapNov. 1 marks the end of the SNAP/Food Stamp benefit increase created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The cut poses great harm to the close to 190,000 Long Islanders enrolled in the program, a number that has more than doubled in the past five years, after the recession and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. It also threatens to hurt our still stagnant economy.

While the benefit reduction is about 5.5 percent across the program, the allotment slash varies by household size. A family of four will lose about $36 per month. This is a devastating amount when current benefits typically last only three weeks—rather than the entire month—leading to hunger and a dependence on food pantries to try and make up the shortfall. LI food banks are already strained and today’s SNAP cuts will only intensify the demand.

Heightened food insecurity presents great risks to health. Hunger and malnourishment put adults and children at risk for illness and chronic disease. School and work productivity often suffer as a result.

Often overlooked is the impact that hunger has on mental well-being. For children, this may immediately lead to behavioral problems. For adults, already suffering from the strain of economic uncertainty, additional pressure may lead to profound emotional distress.

Anxiety and depression then creates family tensions, makes working or finding work difficult and worsen physical ailments. These harmful effects impact not just individuals or families but the entire region through rising health costs and dollars of investment lost to the community.

Studies show that SNAP dollars are also a real boon to local economies. Moreover, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for every $5 of new SNAP money spent, $9 of economic activity is generated.

Currently, LI SNAP benefits total more than $27,000,000 per month. With the SNAP multiplier effect in mind, the Island’s economy stands to loses about $30.3 million per year after the SNAP cuts today.

Dr. Sarah Eichberg is Director of Community Research and Author for Adelphi University Vital Signs, the research arm of the Center for Health Innovation, which is a project that analyzes the social health of communities on Long Island.