Dealing with Math and Food Stamps

By Veronica Coons, City Reporter
The Great Bend Tribune

SNAP LogoI was no math whiz in school, but I did graduate with a high school diploma back in 1987.  It wasn’t until I turned 40 that I went back to college to get a degree — and the biggest hurdle that kept me from doing that earlier in life was my own personal fear of needing to pass College Algebra.  It took me three years to finally pass that class, but when I finally did, my grade was an A.

That was about two years ago.  I’m not scared of math anymore, but I also realize I don’t remember all the formulas by heart, and my estimating may be off.  Still, I think I can at least get a figure that’s in the ballpark.

Headlines with big dollar figures spread out over long stretches of time aren’t easy to get my mind around.  Friday, I saw one,  “Republicans to propose $40 billion cut over decade to food stamps program.”

It got me thinking, what does that really mean to the guy on the street? That’s about $4 billion per year.  Break that down into 50, for 50 states, that’s $80 million per state, for each of the next 10 years.

In 2012, the average per person Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit in Kansas was $125 per month, (July 2013 data).  In April, 2013, the most recent month that there is data for, 303,106 people in Kansas were participating in the program.  That means, if we multiply the two, around $37,888,250 of SNAP benefits were issued in Kansas in April, 2013.  Multiply that by 12, we get $454,659,00 SNAP benefits per year.

Now, take away $80 million.  That leaves $374,659,000 per year.  That’s $31,221,583 per month.  That’s $103 per person per month.  SNAP beneficiaries will lose $22 a month, per person, for groceries.  For the next 10 years.  And we all know the cost of groceries will go up in 10 years.  How the cuts are implemented is yet to be determined, and from what we’ve seen in the past, it could mean much more or less drastic changes for different populations.

Keep in mind, the program is meant to only be a safety net.  But what if SNAP was all you had for groceries?  Multiply $125 times 12 and you get $1,500.  Divide that by 52, and you get about $28 per week for groceries.  That’s $4 a day.  But now, it will be less.  With this cut, a person would get $3.40 per day to eat.  That breaks down to $1.13 per meal.  That sounds awfully low.  But then again, the prices charged for a school lunch today are pretty low too.

Here’s the USD 428 current meals price list:  Elementary — $1.35; Middle School — $1.65; High School — $1.70; Breakfast — $.80; Milk — $.30; Adult breakfast — $2.00; Adult lunch — $3.00.

According to the proposed cuts, an adult relying on SNAP could afford to eat one highly subsidized school lunch a day, and purchase a half-pint of milk to wash it down with.  That is, if the school they purchase it from accepts SNAP as payment.   If  that’s not enough to motivate an able-bodied adult person to find a way to become at least partially self-supporting, I don’t know what would be.

Tribune reporter Veronica Coons can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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