With fall and winter quickly approaching, you may feel your stomach growl in anticipation of the delicious meals that accompany the season change. Warm apple pies, hearty stews and vibrant squash are soon to become a staple at your dining room table.
Imagine for a moment that you are no longer able to afford the luxury item of fresh food. This is a reality for many Mainers who are at risk of losing the SNAP benefits on which they have previously relied. With the proposed removal of broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE), 27 percent of current Maine recipients could lose their benefits. That’s roughly 44,000 Mainers, 25 percent of whom are children and 23 percent of whom are older adults or individuals with disabilities.
Why is this cause for concern? Choices have to be made when one cannot afford food, choices that can affect the quality of life and one’s health. For example, in rural communities, of which Maine is largely comprised, many individuals will need to decide between food and transportation. Transportation to work, school, health care services, the list goes on and on.
Without transportation, one’s income could actually decrease, putting even more pressure on the family. Additionally, if they are able to get there, children who are not eating a proper diet perform poorly in school and run the risk of dropping out due to financial strain on the family.
Families also need to decide between medical care and food, resulting in more emergency room visits and fewer preventative doctor’s visits. In addition to all this, families must turn to cheaper food options, things such as fast food and pre-prepared meals. These meals are calorie-dense and lack the nutritional benefit of a healthy home-cooked meal. This leads to higher obesity rates and an increase of chronic illnesses, costing the state more in the long term as it provides increased medical care for low-income individuals.
Removing SNAP benefits from these families will also affect the Maine economy. Programs such as Maine Harvest Bucks, where SNAP recipients can use their benefits at farmers markets at double the dollar amount, will most definitely be affected. This means Maine farmers will lose money and may need to scale back their farms in the long term. Changing the SNAP BBCE will also affect local grocery stores and their employees. This becomes a bigger issue when viewing the economic contributions of employees to their local area and the state as a whole.
All of this is a fancy way of asking, should we be concerned? If you are, please take time to contact your U.S. senators (Susan Collins and Angus King) or your U.S. congressmen (Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden). You can also write a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture expressing your concerns. All Maine families will be affected by this decision, not just those receiving SNAP benefits.