Carole Farina's grocery cart used to include heads of lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers for homemade salads. Not anymore. Shopping at a Family Dollar store in Somerville, Massachusetts, the unemployed 47-year-old recently saw her monthly food stamp benefits reduced from $94 to $68 due to income adjustments from her disability payments. Now, Farina told me, she can only afford to buy "the cheapest stuff," like 5 for $1 instant ramen Cup Noodles -- those dorm-room staples made of refined carbohydrates, fat, sodium, and polysyllabic chemical additives.
Farina still occasionally splurges on cucumbers, but only when they are on sale for 2 for $1 at her local supermarket. Already overweight, she recognizes that her diet is unhealthy, but her diminished food budget portends a future of more Cup Noodles and fewer salads.
Like Farina, millions of food stamp recipients may soon see their monthly benefits trimmed and their nutrition compromised. But unlike Farina, these changes may occur regardless of changes in their personal income. That's because in two weeks the full House floor is slated to vote on the GOP-controlled Agriculture Committee's omnibus farm bill, which includes unprecedented cuts to the food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Agriculture Committee's reductions to SNAP would total $20.5 billion over 10 years and is even more austere than last year's stalled House farm bill, which sought a $16 billion reduction to SNAP. Such draconian cuts to SNAP may exacerbate the obesity epidemic and ultimately raise health care costs associated with treating obesity and related conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, particularly among low-income Americans.