The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

October 19, 2013

Tim Kean: How much is $36 to you?

On Nov. 1, 2013, all households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will see a reduction in their levels because of legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 2010. Benefits for a family of four will be cut by $36 a month, and the average benefit level will drop to less than $1.40 per person per meal.

This message is getting national attention. It is going to increase traffic at food pantries, soup kitchens, and tailgate distributions.

To a family making $100,000 a year that is about 45 minutes of pay. To a family making $50,000 a year it’s about 1.5 hours of pay.

To a family trying to live on a full-time job making $9 per hour, that is half a day’s pay. Considering it takes approximately $17 per hour for a family of three to earn a living wage in east central Indiana, the economic recovery we have been experiencing seems a little further away from reality for over 74,000 people in our region who struggle to put food on the table.

I wonder how many names of struggling families are known by our federal legislators. I wonder how many names are known who have written significant checks. Each has one vote. I don’t know exactly how much the legislators earn, but I doubt that many would feel the pinch if they lost $36 this month, I don’t know that for sure, but I think I’m safe with that.

Whether you agree that we should help struggling people or we should let 'em fend for themselves is a debate and an attitude that goes back a few thousand years ago. I know what I am called to do. The hundreds of pantry volunteers feel that call. Many of you feel the same call and have stepped up as well.

In our recent Annual Agency Conference many expressed the concern of more people needing assistance in the coming year. This struggle is less about food and more about a job that covers living expenses versus something less. Food becomes one of those compromises families have to make because of the job situation, or lack thereof.

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