One of the objectives of the $1000 challenge was to get a better understanding of what poverty really feels like. Some might say that I haven’t gotten the best flavor of that, having gone on business trips and allowing my friends to treat me to dinner (twice). It’s a fair point. So today I decided to reflect on the original intent of the challenge — among other things, to learn about benefits and other assistance programs available to those living in poverty.
After rent, food makes up the largest component of my $1000 budget. So how do people that are living on a $1000 a month get by and still eat complete and balanced meals? I’ve known that food stamps exist, but I haven’t really known the first thing about them. The first thing I learned is that SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the new name of the food stamp program since 2009. There aren’t actually stamps any more, essentially a debit card that is given out to recipients that is good for food purchases.
What really had my curiosity peaked: Would I be eligible for food stamps (or a food debit card) if I were actually making $1000 a month? I decided to look into it.
The USDA has a handy online calculator that lets you estimate what your benefits might be. After inputting information about my hypothetical income ($1000 gross) and assets ($0), the calculator revealed that I would likely qualify for $36 to $46 per month.
Some interesting facts about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program:
As of November 2010, there are 43.6 million people in the United States receiving food assistance as part of SNAP, or 14% of the population. On average they received $134 per person per month in 2010 or $293 per household. All in all, it’s a $68.3 billion dollar program funded by the federal government. And it appears that likely due to the economy, the number of people collecting food assistance has risen dramatically, from 26 million in 2006 to 43mm in November 2010.
Picture by clementine gallot via Flickr