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San Francisco and Marin Food Banks Disappointed by SNAP Cuts

September 20, 2013

MEDIA CONTACT: Blain Johnson
(415) 282-1907 x270 (office), (512) 487-2583 (cell)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (Sept. 20, 2013) – The San Francisco and Marin Food Banks is disappointed by the House’s vote to slash spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $39 billion, says Executive Director Paul Ash. 

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the House legislation would deny benefits to 3.8 million Americans next year and cut $39 billion over 10 years, or roughly 5 percent of the SNAP program's cost in that time.

The Food Bank and other local charities are already stretched to the breaking point trying to keep up with increased need as families in California continue to feel the impact of the recession. SNAP is a critical program that funds modest monthly benefits to more than 4.1 million Californians, approximately half of whom are children.

In San Francisco and Marin counties, about 57,000 people rely on CalFresh, as SNAP is known in California. 

Cuts to SNAP, or food stamps, would be devastating to San Francisco and Marin, and charities like the Food Bank cannot make up the difference.

“Make no mistake, these cuts to SNAP will take food from the refrigerators and kitchen tables of vulnerable low-income families struggling to get back on their feet,” Ash says.

According to Feeding America, nationally the legislation will cause at least 4 million people to lose their SNAP benefits entirely, another 850,000 households to lose an average $90 per month in SNAP benefits, and cause 210,000 children to lose free school meals.

“These cuts come on top of across-the-board cuts for all SNAP beneficiaries beginning in November that will lower benefits by about $25 for a family of three,” Ash says. “That may not seem like much to you or me, but for a family scraping by, it matters a lot.

“Taking care of our neighbors is an American value, and feeding our neighbors, especially seniors and children, is a shared responsibility,” Ash said. “Every day the Food Bank sees this partnership reflected in the generous support of our volunteers and donors. But charity alone cannot meet the need. We also need a strong federal commitment to SNAP and other hunger relief programs.”

“SNAP spending will constrict automatically as our economy recovers and people go back to work. Until then, we need to ensure that families who have fallen on hard times can still put food on the table,” Ash continued. “Pulling the rug out from under low-income families by cutting SNAP at a time when the need for food assistance has never been greater is unfair and short-sighted.”

The Food Bank serves 225,000 people each year in San Francisco and Marin, where one in four residents are at risk of hunger. Food bank clients include households who have too much in income or assets to qualify for SNAP but who still struggle to feed their families, as well as SNAP participants whose benefits are inadequate to get them through the month.

SNAP benefits average less than $1.50 per person per meal, and more than 90 percent of benefits are spent by day 21 of the month, leaving many families to turn to local charities to make ends meet.

SNAP is targeted at the most vulnerable: 76 percent of SNAP households include a child, elderly person, or disabled person, and 91 percent of benefits go to households with gross income at or below 100 percent of the poverty line, which is $19,530 for a family of three.

“Deficit reduction is an important national priority, but it must not be undertaken without regard to our national values and it must not come at the expense of our most vulnerable,” Ash said. 

About the Food Bank
The Food Bank plays a central role in the food assistance network in San Francisco and Marin, where one in four residents is at risk of hunger. Families, seniors and individuals find critical support in the food the Food Bank delivers to its 450 partnering organizations, including 240 weekly grocery pantries. Each week, the Food Bank’s programs serve more than 147,000 people.

The pantry network is the cornerstone of the Food Bank’s distribution system. Set up farmer’s market-style, volunteers help households select groceries that can be used to create home-cooked meals. Nearly 60 percent of what is distributed is fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Food Bank will distribute more than 46 million pounds of food to the community this year alone – enough for more than 105,000 meals every day.

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