It’s hard to say that I’m glad we went through it – I’m not sure I’m glad for the going, but I’m grateful for the learning. As a family who dealt with unemployment, underemployment, and financial duress, we experienced what millions of Americans go through every day. And while there are few places in America where you’ll find absolute poverty like you do in third-world countries, there is still, nonetheless, lack and need that cannot be overlooked or dismissed.
You hear so much about the agencies and resources that are available to help families in need. Not just the state-run organizations, but independent organizations smaller charities that will be there to help fill the gap and make ends meet. And while they’re there, what’s less visible is the fine line that people have to walk in order to qualify for assistance and aid. $25 on a paycheck can make the difference between help with paying the electrical bill or a closed door and the painful realization that you not only don’t have enough money for the necessities, now you may have to choose between necessities.
Whether or not you have a degree – jobs are hard to come by in today’s market – and the ones that are there aren’t paying what they used to. In recent years, the entry-level hourly wage for recent high school graduates from fell to $11.68 from $$15.64 in 1979. Health care has taken a hit as well, with the percentage of jobs that offer health insurance dropping from 63.3 percent in 1979 to the recent 22.8 percent.* Even the cost of food, which has stayed fairly consistent, increased by nearly 5 percent in 2011.
Is it any surprise then, that over 47 million Americans participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program (formerly food stamps) to help meet their needs?
- 76 percent of SNAP households include a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83 percent of all SNAP benefits.
- 83 percent of SNAP households have incomes at or below 100 percent of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013). These households receive 91 percent of all SNAP benefits.
- 90 percent of SNAP benefits are redeemed by day 21 of the benefit period – meaning most SNAP benefits are not enough to last recipients all month.
- All SNAP participants will see a drop in their benefits on November 1, 2013 – the average decrease will be $36 for a family of four.
- Over the entire year, the average family of four will have $396 less to spend on food.
So here’s something to consider – would you be willing to take the SNAP challenge?
The SNAP Challenge encourages participants to get a sense of what life is like for millions of low-income Americans facing hunger. If you accept the SNAP Challenge, you commit to eating all of your meals from a limited food budget comparable to that of a SNAP participant - $1.50 per meal. You can learn more about it here.
You can do it for a day. You can do it for a week. Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America, wrote about part of his SNAP Challenge here at the Huffington Post.
This real-life story from a SNAP participant will give you some more insight into what it’s like to accept this kind of help, and what it’s like to be a beneficiary.
Take a moment and be a blessing to someone today. Take a risk and take the challenge. You never know whose life you’re going to change.
I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. During the 31 Days Challenge, I'll be using the hashtags #desertjourney and #inspirationalandfaith80 if you'd like to join in or follow along. Let's continue the conversation!
*Economic Policy Institute