Empty Pantry: Too Many Wisconsin Households Can’t Afford Food
One in nine households in Wisconsin has difficulty affording food, according to a new report from the U.S Department of Agriculture.
Nearly 12% of Wisconsin households did not have access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle over the period 2011 through 2013.That translates into about 270,000 Wisconsin families struggling to put food on the table.
The share of Wisconsin households that have trouble affording food shot up during the recession and hasn’t come back down; a decade ago, only 9% of Wisconsin families lived in food insecurity. That’s the same pattern shown by many other measures of economic well-being for Wisconsin families. For example, poverty rates in Wisconsin also remain stubbornly high, and household income levels don’t show much signs of bouncing back to pre-recession levels either. As a result, many families are continuing to experience the same levels of hardship that they did during the recession – even though some of the temporary supports for families with low incomes that were introduced during the recession have since been eliminated.
There is help for families struggling to afford food. One of the most effective tools is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or food stamps. Last year, SNAP helped 1.1 million people in Wisconsin put food on the table. About 40% of the people in Wisconsin who receive SNAP benefits are children.
Recent changes to SNAP could increase, rather than decrease, the number of Wisconsin households who can’t afford food. In 2013, state lawmakers approved new work requirements for adults who aren’t disabled and who aren’t parents, a policy estimated to knock 36,000 Wisconsin residents off SNAP (and to cost the state$7 million in tax revenue a year) . And Governor Walker recently advocated for reducing the duration of time for which those adults could obtain benefits, and for drug testing recipients – a change that would likely conflict with federal law.
With so many households struggling, we should be working to strengthen SNAP rather than weaken it.