On Nov. 1, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (also known as food stamps) will be reduced, creating ramifications beyond the already incomprehensible fact that more than one in eight central Maryland residents (and one in five children) is food insecure.
The impact of these cuts will ripple throughout our communities and our economy well into the future. The Sun wisely pointed out in its Oct. 30 editorial ("Hunger gets a boost" that retailers, distributors, truck drivers and particularly farmers will be hurting as a result of the SNAP reductions. In fact, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, every $5 of SNAP benefits creates $9 of economic growth. In 2012, SNAP benefits propelled nearly $1.1 billion into Maryland's economy.
The long-term impact is also real but less immediately perceptible. Hunger is linked with children's success in school. Studies show that children who eat breakfast miss less school and perform better in math, averaging about 17 percent higher on math test scores. (Source: Share Our Strength.) The U.S. is already ranked well below other developed countries in East Asia and Europe in terms of math and science test scores. These cuts will only further exacerbate our country's growing achievement gaps — both globally and between socioeconomic groups domestically.
Not only can hunger impact academic success for children, it also increases one's likelihood of becoming obese and developing chronic disease which add up to increased health care costs in our country. According to the Center for American Progress, America's "hunger bill" (the cost of hunger, encompassing avoidable medical bills, loss of economic productivity and other costs stemming from food insecurity) is $167 billion a year.
SNAP benefits are one of the few entitlement programs that are proven to help lift people out of poverty. Reducing them is a detriment not only to the members of our community who need help most, but our society as a whole.
Mark Furst, Baltimore
The writer is president and CEO of the United Way of Central Maryland.