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September 4, 2013

Baloney sandwiches … again?

Do you know people who can’t afford fresh fruits and vegetables, who make their children baloney sandwiches for dinner every day not because the kids like it, but because that’s all they can afford? It might surprise you how many of Virginia’s families fit that description. Those families are struggling to put adequate food on the table consistently, and a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows they’re far from alone. Over 275,000 Virginia households have trouble at some point during the year getting an adequate quality and variety of food due to a lack of money and other resources. That’s more than 1 in 11 Virginia households.

To make matters worse, in almost 100,000 of those households at least one member had to eat less than normal or change their regular eating patterns due to limited resources. The share of Virginians who experienced this type of hardship is up sharply from a decade ago, a sign that low-income families continue to struggle with the slow recovery from the Great Recession.

Unfortunately, the number of Virginia households struggling with hunger is likely to rise later this year when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) expires. Congress allowed the temporary boost to expire despite unemployment and poverty levels continuing to be far higher than before the recession. Currently, one in nine Virginians and one in four Virginia children receive help paying for groceries from SNAP, and this assistance keeps 100,000 Virginians above the poverty line. All of them will see their benefits cut in November.

But more challenges are looming for these families. House Republican leaders – including Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor – are  expected to propose cutting SNAP by more than $40 billion over the next 10 years. Such a hit would deny any nutrition assistance to millions of families and reduce benefits to millions more.

–Laura Goren, Policy Analyst

The Commonwealth Institute

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