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What’s the Connection: “Food Stamps” and the Food Bank

“Food Stamps,” now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provide an average daily benefit of $4.50 a day, per person. SNAP benefits are distributed on debit-type cards that allow participants to buy groceries. In San Francisco and Marin counties, about 57,000 people rely on CalFresh, as SNAP is known in California, and most of them are children. 

Many food pantry participants are eligible for or also receive SNAP benefits. 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.

The Food Bank does not provide SNAP benefits; however, the Food Bank does help food pantry participants help sign up for SNAP through outreach programs. Food banks are a natural partner in SNAP outreach because of their direct connection to food insecure families in the community. By connecting eligible families with SNAP, food banks help provide food insecure households with a consistent and stable means to purchase their own food. 

SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130 percent of the federal poverty guideline, which comes out to $25,400 for a family of three. However, the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83 percent of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100 percent of the poverty guideline, or $19,530 for a family of three in 2013.

SNAP provides an average of about $146 per person per month to purchase food.

CalFresh, as SNAP is known in California, offers the single greatest opportunity to reduce hunger among low-income people in the state. But millions of eligible people remain unenrolled, resulting in greater food insecurity, an overly burdened non-profit sector and lost economic activity.

Expanding access to CalFresh is a crucial part of getting food to people who need it. Making that happen will require a coordinated statewide CalFresh policy. Learn more about our efforts to reform CalFresh. 

SNAP cuts

As you have heard in the news, SNAP benefits are currently under attack in Congress with a proposal to cut the program by $40 billion.

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.

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.