Melissa Harris-Perry | November 17, 2012
>>> last tuesday, the nonstop barrage of political ads final ended and then yesterday in ohio . more good news. in the buckeye state , the october unemployment rate was revealed to be 6.9%, a full point below the national rate and the lowest in the state since august of 200 . ostensibly, things are getting better in ohio . except for the poorest. who rely on the supplemental nutritional assistance program , s.n.a.p. or food stamps . the news this weeking that those households may lose up to $50 a month in assistance when the new year begins. toledo blade wrote for the households enrolled in the program, the poorest ohioans, that $50 deficit per month could amount to about $520 million annually cut out of the grocery budgets statewide. so late yesterday, we learned that the reduction is now more likely to be not $50 but only end up to $23 per month. but at issue still is the formula used by the federal government to calculate whether or not you are food secure. that formula takes into account the cost of utilities. so you may not quite get this. in order to determine whether or not you are in a place where you can purchase enough food, we look at last year's utility bills. and last year's mild winter in ohio a drop in the cost of natural gas for home heating means that s.n.a.p. recipients will receive less aid next year. however in, areas of the state southern ohio in particular, many rural homes don't use natural gas . and ohio is not the lone state facing this challenge. but as we focus this morning on those living below the line , we're going to begin there. joining my panel at the table is jelani cobb, associate professor the university of connecticut . but first, let's go to columbus ohio to talk with lisa hamler fugate, executive director the choi association of food banks .
>> thank you for having me.
>> we've been following this story all week and we're happy to see the news it's going to be closer to 23 rather than $50 a month. explain to me how that change occurred.
>> obviously, the ohio department of job and family services that administers the program along with advocates for the poor and hungry in the state working with united states department of can agriculture were able to resubmit a methodology taking into account propane, which is an unregulated utility in the state of ohio . but again, you're right. beat did have a mild winter but also had an extremely hot summer requiring many with health conditions to run air-conditioners and they're struggling right now to be able to pay those very high electric bills that are past due.
>> lisa , your point here is one that i'm not sure that all folks understand how we understand what food insecurity looks like. you know, ever since we started talking about poverty on this poverty for months now, i'll get e-mails from folks saying there aren't really poor people in america. poverty is a thing of other countries of the so-called third world. what does $23 or $50 look like in terms of real food on the table of a family that has to use s.n.a.p.?
>> $23, a loss of $23 of benefits means 15 meals a month will be foregone or lost to low income families. let me put it in context. what we're talking about is a single parent with one child who will see their food stamp benefits reduced from $138 a month to $115 a month per person. it means that they're going to use multiple coping strategies including reducing the size and portion of the parents' meals, skipping meals, sending their children to family and friends ' homes to eat. borrowing food, borrowing money and then coming to one of our 3,000 food pantries soup kitchens or homeless shelters during the last two weeks of the month trying to be able to get enough food to feed themselves. it's a working parent earning less than $7.20 an hour or $15,000 a year.
>> i want to follow up on two things there. one, your point these are often working folks, that this is poverty that is associated with people actually having jobs. and the other thing the way that this hits kids, one of the things we see in schools, for example, is during the last week of the month often the more discipline problems because kids are actually coming to school hungry. is that the sort of thing that you're pointing out to us here?
>> absolutely. and we pay a horrible high cost for hunger. hunger is merely a symptom of poverty and in our state, we'll spend $6.97 billion in associated costs to hunger. that's going to be lost educational attainment for our children, lost productivity for our adults higher health care costs associated with that, as well as the cost of charity. 75% of all s.n.a.p. benefits go to households with children. this is the first line of defense against hunger in our state and nation for children and working families , seniors and persons with disabilities .
>> lisa , stay right there. we're going to stay on this topic. i'm going to bring my panel in when we come back after the break. this issue of food security