Health & Fitness

Trump Administration proposed cuts to SNAP could lead to hunger for area residents.

Students choose items during a lunch period at Central Valley High School in Ceres, Calif., in March of 2017.
Students choose items during a lunch period at Central Valley High School in Ceres, Calif., in March of 2017. Modesto Bee File

Access to healthy, nutritious food could be in jeopardy for many of the 87,000 recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, in Stanislaus County.

On Tuesday, the Trump Administration proposed to cut funding for SNAP, a food safety net for low-income Americans. This could increase food insecurity in the Central Valley, which already affects 1 in 5 residents.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows states to give SNAP benefits to people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. California is one of the 40 states and the District of Columbia that uses the broader SNAP eligibility to aid low-income, working families who often have fluctuating incomes. Some of those families might not otherwise be eligible, because their gross income is slightly higher than the limit.

In addition, nationwide 265,000 low-income kids would no longer automatically qualify for free school lunch under the proposal. Instead, they would have to apply separately, which historically has led to fewer kids getting fed. Two-thirds of the 110,000 public school kids in Stanislaus County are eligible for the school lunch program. Hunger contributes to poor school performance, developmental delays, anxiety, behavior problems and even chronic illnesses, such as asthma.

“Literally thousands of children in the Central Valley rely on the school lunch program just to get something to eat,” said Representative Josh Harder, D-Turlock, in a press release. “I don’t know what genius came up with the idea to take school lunches away from our kids, but we can’t let this happen.”

Four million, or about 10% of Californians, are enrolled in SNAP. The qualifying annual income for CalFresh, the state’s name for SNAP, is a little more than $50,000 for a family of four. Two-thirds of CalFresh recipients in Stanislaus County are children.

“This could potentially impact more than 120,000 California households, most of whom are working,” said Rachel Tucker, from the California Association of Food Banks. The association is comprised of 41 food banks and works to influence public policy, collaborate with local farmers, and educate hungry Californians about access to nutrition services.

The food bank association released a joint statement with four other anti-poverty groups in the state to condemn the proposal. Tucker said the cuts would be devastating for families in the Central Valley, as the area has some of the nation’s highest use of SNAP. Nearly a half million children in Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Fresno and Merced counties count on CalFresh to stave off hunger.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the proposal on July 23, and it’s posted in the Federal Register with a 60-day period for public comment.

Perdue said, “This proposal will not only save money, but more importantly it preserves the integrity of the program while ensuring nutrition assistance programs serve those most in need,” in a report from NPR. Nationwide, an estimated 3 million of the 36 million SNAP recipients could lose their benefits. USDA estimates the change would save $2.5 billion annually.

“This is just one more of the administration’s continued attacks on low-income families,” said Tucker. “We’ll see hunger and hardship increase in California, and nationwide.”

The U.S. Congress refused to include a similar proposal in the 2018 farm bill.

This story was produced with financial support from The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with the GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of this work.