More than 20 percent of Lane County residents are on food stamps — that’s 80,657 people in a county with a population of about 350,000 who need federal assistance to eat and to feed their children. Local mapper and retired government employee Joe Kosewic has been mapping food stamps and other social issues to graphically draw attention to the challenges faced by the poor and the homeless.
Federal funding for food stamps, aka SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), is reportedly facing a proposed $40 billion cut by Republicans in September. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) says this means four million people would be cut from SNAP. The think tank calls this proposal “stunningly harsh.” Lane County has almost 16,000 school-age children participating in SNAP and 2,800 elderly women, according to Kosewic’s maps. His data comes from the Oregon Department of Human Services.
The SNAP program was already inadequate before cuts were proposed. Kosewic says that the USDA’s current “thrifty” food plan doesn’t take into account the gender inequality when it comes to pay that women continue to face in their retirement years, since Social Security is based on earnings and the less earnings you have, the fewer benefits you receive.
Even without the proposed $40 billion slashing by Republicans, SNAP has been up against cuts. In July, the House split SNAP from the rest of the Farm Bill where it has historically been legislated, creating an impasse with the Senate version of the bill. And CBPP says the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s temporary boost to SNAP benefits is scheduled to end on Nov. 1, resulting in a benefit cut for every SNAP household. CBPP says this means SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014. According to Forbes, food stamp use is at a record high, and one in seven Americans is getting a little over $133 a month to help pay for groceries.
Kosewic hopes seeing the numbers and facts on maps will give people a better understanding of how widespread the need for food assistance that even working people have — while more than 80,000 people in Lane County are on food stamps, Kosewic’s information from the Oregon Department of Employment says only about 45,000 people are on unemployment.