More than 300,000 households in Wisconsin depend on federal programs for food. Now, more than 25,000 households in the state are at risk of losing some of those benefits. The United States Department of Agriculture, which runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is proposing removing a so-called “loophole” that makes it easier for families to access SNAP benefits.
The proposed changes would not only impact families that rely on these benefits for hunger relief, they could also hurt local economies that depend on money from the program.
"SNAP is a critical part of our local economy: it keeps the grocery store industry in business, it employs lots of people. There’s a huge benefit to the SNAP program on an economic level," says Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Hunger Task Force based in Milwaukee. It operates a food bank and works to prevent hunger.
Charity organizations are frequently relied on to step in when these federal programs purge households from their services. But Tussler says this solution is inadequate and that organizations like Hunger Task Force don't have the resources to feed everyone on SNAP.
"When the government shut down back in January, the [annual] Hunger Task Force budget — which supports all the food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters here in Milwaukee — it's about $16 million. A single month of SNAP benefits [for the region] was twice that," she explains.