Three weeks and counting until the biggest feasting day of the year! For lots of us, Thanksgiving is the day we get to shine in the kitchen, and show off our cooking skills and knack for pleasing the palate. It’s usually a day to splurge at least a little bit, on special foods or ingredients to create that unique recipe that you hope will make everyone fight for the leftovers, and remember for Thanksgivings to come.
But what if you had to do that on a budget of $1.40 per person? That’s what the average person who counts on SNAP benefits, better known as food stamps, has to spend on each meal. It was a little bit more in the past, but the benefits were cut on November 1, from a maximum of $668 per month, to $632 a month for a family of four. The average SNAP recipient receives about $133 a month in benefits, while the typical family gets $278. Poorer households receive larger benefits.
$278 a month! I think the last time I walked into Whole Foods I spent that on a half basket of groceries, that didn’t last me more than a week. I’ll admit that was a splurge, but it really makes me realize that there is a huge food disparity in this country.
According to statistics from the Congressional Budget Office, the SNAP program is used by about half of all adults at some point in their lives. Today, more than 1 in 4 U.S. children live in a home that gets food stamps, and 87 percent of SNAP recipients live in households with children, seniors, or people with disabilities. U.S Census Bureau data show that in 2011, about 900,000 former U.S. military personnel lived in households that used food stamps.
Most SNAP recipients run out of benefits by the third week of the month (which doesn’t bode well for Thanksgiving), and for families with growing children, it’s especially difficult to make ends meet. It’s not uncommon for parents to water down milk to stretch it, ration food, or go without heat so that their kids can eat. Many will turn to food pantries and food banks to fill the gap, and I’m guessing that their Thanksgiving table won’t look quite the same as yours or mine.
Will you help?
If you can afford to do so, please consider helping those who are less fortunate by donating to a food drive, or organizing a Virtual Food Drive at work or in your neighborhood. Cash donations to your local food bank are always most appreciated, and currently donations to Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief charity, are being matched by a grant from Ameriprise Financial. While donations to these organizations tend to be highest during the holidays, the need is also greatest during this time and through the winter. For every $1 donated, Feeding America secures and distributes 18 meals on behalf of local food banks.
So please spread the word, and take action right now. Share this on Facebook or Twitter, or email, and encourage your friends and family to help to make another family’s Thanksgiving as special as your own.