You have to wonder what Charles Dickens would say if he were alive and writing about life in the United States today. Nearly one-quarter of American adults skip meals for financial reasons, including children and those on fixed incomes. However, waning SNAP benefits as the federal and state governments dismantle pandemic disaster response programs threaten to send millions more to bed hungry.
The worst of the crisis has not ended. Soaring inflation has made mealtime harder for many. Egg prices alone have risen over 64% since February of 2022, and they are a common protein staple for low-income families.
Cutting families off food stamps during rising inflation will have far-reaching effects on the nation’s health and deepen the socioeconomic divide. Here are four consequences of waning SNAP benefits.
1. Waning SNAP Benefits Lead to Poorer Health Outcomes
Nearly everyone who uses social media has seen memes comparing the price of various inexpensive fast food items to salad offerings. It’s no secret that healthy food can cost more in many areas. While options like farmers markets keep costs low for some, they’re inaccessible for people in many city locations and those who must work during market hours.
Those with sufficient incomes now have delivery options, but such services are often priced out of reach for many consumers. Even $8 a meal is more than many spend — they often have to make that amount last the entire day.
One alternative exists. Of all the meal box subscription services available, only FarmboxRX allows Medicare recipients to use their OTC benefits card to purchase produce. Fortunately, it recently became the only food and produce delivery service approved for SNAP/EBT nationwide. It’s designed to deliver food as medicine and drive nutritional education programming to underserved communities.
However, those that don’t know about this service or have no home address to receive delivery will suffer. The percentage of people living in their vehicles has increased exponentially, and P.O. boxes won’t accept such deliveries — plus, getting a box requires a residential mailing address.
Food is medicine. As researchers learn more about how the human body and mind work, they have come to implicate diet in everything from heart disease to hormonal disorders like PCOS and various cancer forms.
Health outcomes will worsen without access to SNAP benefits to help supply nourishing foods. Diseases don’t strike all at once, but they cause even more financial devastation to families when they occur. The U.S. remains the only wealthy nation without a universal care system, and there’s a good reason that more than 40% of the homeless population has an identified disability.
2. Waning SNAP Benefits Worsen Poverty
When households lose food benefits, their entire budget shrinks — and many already dance in the danger zone. Nearly half of Americans pay more than 30% of their income on housing. Renter-occupied households fare worse, with low-income Americans paying up to 62.7% of their monthly income on rent alone.
It’s dangerous living on that thin edge. A single unexpected car repair can mean losing housing and stability, and once it’s gone, it’s extremely difficult to regain. Such circumstances create an enormous stress burden, worsening health outcomes and driving poor food choices as excess cortisol production from the constant threat wreaks havoc on multiple body systems.
3. Waning SNAP Benefits Increase Obesity
Unfortunately, poor food choices may be the only ones some individuals can make, worsening the obesity crisis. Over two-thirds of American adults are overweight or have obesity and related health woes already.
Many political pundits like to blame low-income people for poor health outcomes, but the myths about welfare and obesity simply aren’t true. More middle-class people are overweight than those in poverty, even Black women, who have the highest obesity rates overall.
Food stamps do not increase the number of overweight or obese people. In some populations, there’s an inverse relationship between food stamps and obesity — people lose weight when given access to the healthier foods this program supplies.
However, low-income urban areas explode with fast-food restaurants. If you live in downtown Detroit, you might not be able to walk to your local nature center for free stress relief or hit the farmers market for broccoli, but there’s a deep-fried temptation steps from your door. Even in rural farm towns, such chains are often the first establishments to pop up once real estate developers get hungry for cheap land.
There’s also the psychological element, which is every bit as valid. When you live in survival mode like many impoverished adults, it’s much harder to care about the long-term effects of your choices. It’s also more difficult to make purposeful decisions like getting enough exercise to keep your health on track. Your only thought is to make the pain stop, if only temporarily, and if a hamburger does the trick and is widely available, that’s what you choose. Waning SNAP benefits will lead to more people living in a perpetual crisis.
Individuals crushed beneath the stress of poverty are less likely to opt for grilled chicken and dressing. Only a bacon ultimate cheeseburger will satisfy, with all its saturated fat and bleached flour bun slathered in high-fructose corn syrup with a dash of ketchup.
4. Waning SNAP Benefits Widen Cultural and Socioeconomic Disparities
The pain parents feel is often borne by their children. Many good people would rather skip meals than let their kids go hungry. However, in their stressed-out state, they’re unlikely to order the Happy Meal featuring a wrap and fruit when their 3-year-old clamors for fries.
The problem with this behavior is that it often worsens generational poverty, further increasing the rift between rich and poor in America. Foods containing high amounts of sugar are as addictive to developing bodies as cocaine. No parent would unwittingly give their child an illicit drug, but millions get their kids hooked on the sweet stuff because it’s the only reward they can afford.
As a result, these children develop various chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes. The health burden on top of the stress of poverty creates a vicious spiral that’s nearly impossible to escape. Consider this:
- Money spent on childhood medical bills represents funds that aren’t put away for college, and most jobs today require degrees.
- Poor nutrition affects academic performance, making scholarships harder to achieve.
- As a result, students must take out loans that preclude many from ever buying a home, the traditional means of building wealth in America.
Children raised in poverty or families that suffer from food insecurity are less likely to go to school and more likely to do poorly and come out debt-burdened if they do. Those with chronic health issues are often limited in their job prospects, requiring accommodations that make many employers look elsewhere.
As a result, they are eons behind their food-secure counterparts and may live their entire lives in poverty, passing the pain onto subsequent generations. The problem is usually not a lack of effort but resource allocation. Sadly, the safety and welfare of the nation’s children too often take the backburner in the budget wars as inequality continues to worsen and more Americans sink into poverty each year.
Consequences of Waning SNAP Benefits
Waning SNAP benefits amid soaring inflation will have consequences that extend well beyond temporary pain at the grocery store. Food is essential to human life, and modern, urban lifestyles have divorced people from the land, making them reliant on commercial sources and money to feed themselves.
Cutting these benefits now will only worsen the already stark income inequality in the United States. It will cause more than hunger, increasing poverty, disease and human suffering.