This country needs to come to terms with our collective obligations as a civil society. There are not enough jobs for those who want to work and many of the jobs that our neighbors work at don’t pay enough to support the basic needs of an individual, much less a family.
McDonalds Corporation Corporation recently published a “Sample Monthly Budget” to assist its employees in their daily lives. The budget assumes the employee has two jobs (presumably working about 70 hours per week) with a net monthly income of $2,060. Total monthly expenses of $1,260 allows $600 for housing, $20 for health insurance, and $0 for heating, among other things. There are no line items for food, child care, gas or clothing — those expenses must come out of the $27 per day “daily spending money goal.”
More of our neighbors than we realize live on this budget, or less. That’s a net yearly income of $24,720, just slightly higher than the federal poverty level for a family of four. Working at least 70 hours a week. Living in a $600 apartment. With no heat. With marginal health insurance. And $27 a day for food, child care, gas, and clothing. This is why 47 million Americans need SNAP benefits and more than 100,000 Vermonters need 3SquaresVT benefits. But with an average monthly family benefit of just over $200, our neighbors are still coming to food shelves and meal sites by the end of month.
As I write this, Congress is struggling with the five-year farm bill reauthorization that funds agricultural programs and SNAP. The Senate passed a farm bill with $4.2 billion in SNAP cuts over ten years. The House has passed a farm bill that stripped out SNAP funding, after failing to pass a version with $20 billion in SNAP cuts. Cutting $20 billion from SNAP would have the impact equivalent to immediately closing 202 food banks across the country and keeping them closed for two and one-half years.
There is no clear path forward to get a unified farm bill to President Obama, but whatever happens it appears that SNAP funding will decrease, and benefits for families will decrease. That means less food purchased at the local grocery store or farmers market and more frequent visits to the food shelf and meal sites for working families, seniors, and the disabled who just can’t make ends meet.
Thriving communities need citizens who can focus on more than where their next meal is coming from. While your Foodbank works to reduce the need for food assistance and provide for those missing meals, Congress threatens to overwhelm our network and turn struggling families into desperate families. We need your help. Speak out in favor of our neighbors and let congress Congress know that SNAP cuts are unacceptable. And support the Vermont Foodbank with your donation so that we can help our neighbors keep food on the table until the nation wakes up to our collective obligation.
PS: Please give today. One dollar helps us provide three meals to Vermonters in need.