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By Miriam Raftery

Cary Hyatt also contributed to this report

November 5, 2013 (San Diego) – Nearly 270,000 San Diegans, including 136,000 children and 15,000 senior citizens, had their food stamp benefits cut effective November 1st.   Nationwide, around 48 million people rely on food stamps, or nearly 14% of all Americans.

Back in 2009, Congress and President Obama approved an increase in benefits for recipients of food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as part of the federal stimulus. This was not intended as a temporary increase, but rather to cover cost of living increases over the next several years.  But now that increase has expired and Congress did not renew it.

For a family of four, the benefit drops by $36 a month, from $668 to $632.  For a two-person household, it drops to $347 from $367 a month, a drop of $20.

For an individual, the cuts mean the maximum possible benefit drops from $200 to $189.  But some people are being forced to make do on far less. 

“Dale”, a Lakeside resident whose income is just $600 a month in Social Security benefits, is 66 years old, has cancer , recently had a heart attack and may need open heart surgery.  He lives in a rural area and relies on his pickup truck to look for work, when he can find it.  But nearly everything he makes goes into his truck payment, insurance and gas.  Yet he’s been told by the county that he is entitled to receive only $85 a month and recently, he says he’s gone up to three days without eating.

It will soon get even worse for those who are hungry.  The proposed Farm Bill, which funds food stamps, is now being considered by Congress.  Both House and Senate versions have slashed billons from the food stamp budget and will make it harder to qualify for food assistance. 

Supporters of the food stamp budget cuts point to the rising costs of the program, as more people have signed on for benefits in recent years due to the recession.  According to U-T San Diego, costs for food stamps in San Diego County quadrupled over the last seven years, from $9.6 million in 2007 to $39.9 million.  The cut will trim just $2.1 million a year of that expense.

San Diego is a costly place to live, with the nation’s highest electricity rates and housing costs far above the national average.  Jennifer Tracy, executive director of the San Diego Hunger Coalition, has said that the current payment amount “doesn’t actually give people enough dollars to spend on food for the month,” KPBS reported. “Most people’s benefits already run out at the second or third week of the month.”

That’s putting a strain on food banks, the source of last resort for hungry people whose monthly food stamp benefits have run out.  Feeding America distributed 23 million pounds of food last year in San Diego County, more than  seven-fold increase over 3 million pounds on 2007. 

A hunger study by Feeding America provides statistics on those in need that the organization assists locally:

·         46% of the members of households are children under age 18

·         14% of the members of households are children 0-5

  • 3% of the members of households are elderly
  • 62% of households include at least one employed adult
  • 76% have incomes below the federal poverty level during the previous month
  • 7% are homeless
  • 70% of client households are food insecure
  • Among households with children, 72% are food insecure with very low food security
  • 62% of clients report having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities, rent or mortgage
  • 34% had to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care
  • 48% had to choose between paying for food and paying for transportation
  • 57% had to choose between paying for food and paying for gas for a car

For a list of food pantries/food banks in San Diego County, visit

For additional assistance visit  

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