Interactive: Impact of Potential Cuts to Food Stamp Benefits

Texas has the third-highest rate of food insecurity in the nation — 18.5 percent of households struggled to acquire enough healthy food in 2011, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Although 14.7 percent of U.S. households had difficulty affording healthy food at some point in 2011, the federal government is considering cutting $16 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, as part of a national effort to tighten the federal budget.

More than 3 million Americans, including 302,800 Texans, will lose food stamp benefits in 2013 if the U.S. Congress approves proposed federal cuts to the SNAP, according to the federal Office of Management and Budget. That’s about 8.5 percent of Texans enrolled in the program as of June 2012.

Based on the estimates from the OMB, the Texas Food Bank Network calculated the number of Texans that would lose food stamp benefits in 2013 by county. The Tribune has mapped those estimates here, and included other information about the number of food stamp recipients in June 2012, such as the total money given to the county that month and the estimated economic impact.

Hover over a county to see the number of food stamp beneficiaries in June 2012, the number of recipients who could lose benefits in 2013 and the estimated economic impact.

The proposed $16 billion cut “would result not only in families losing their benefits, but it would really undermine Texas’ efforts to encourage families to save,” said Celia Cole, chief executive officer of the Texas Food Bank Network. Texas has raised the asset limit for those who qualify for SNAP benefits in order to encourage households to save money and work toward long-term solutions to pull the family out of poverty, rather than continuously depend on government aid. If the proposed cuts are approved, Texas would have to revert to federal standards on asset limits, and many Texans would no longer qualify for benefits. “You could potentially have someone with a $6,000 car get kicked off the program," Cole said.

SNAP currently provides assistance to more than 3.5 million Texans, 1.9 million of whom are younger than 18. In June 2012, the state received $426 million in food stamps, which had an estimated $762 million economic impact to local communities, according to the calculations by the Tribune using an economic multiplier determined by the USDA.

As Jeremy Everett, director of the Texas Hunger Initiative at Baylor University, explained to the Tribune, the SNAP benefits have a “trickle-up” effect on the economy because food stamp recipients “immediately reinvest that money in their local grocery store, which creates working-class jobs,” and in turn, “necessitates middle-class management jobs, and the money trickles up to the owners of the company.”

As an editorial by the Houston Chronicle opposed to the proposed cuts pointed out in August, SNAP provides about $30 a week — or $4 a day — for individuals struggling to afford a meal, and reduction in food stamp funding would put more pressure on food pantries and the Texas Food Bank Network to keep Texans fed.

“Despite anecdotes of food stamp abuse, SNAP recipients shop for nutritious food for their families,” the Houston Chronicle editorial said. “At a major grocery chain in Houston, the top three most-purchased items with SNAP were bananas, bread and tomatoes.”

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