(Chicago) –The 2012 farm bill approved last week by the U.S. Senate cut $4.5 billion from federal nutrition assistance funding, which could eliminate food stamps for 24,000 already hungry Illinois residents, including 5,000 in Chicago.
Those estimates were released today by a Chicago-based nutrition group which helps feed and sustain low-income people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses.
“The 2012 farm bill cuts federal food stamp spending alone by $4.5 billion over 10 years and would eliminate nutrition assistance to approximately 24,000 Illinois residents, of which 5,000 would be in Chicago,” said Vital Bridges Center on Chronic Care/Heartland Health Outreach Chief Health Care Strategist Deborah Hinde.
The senate bill has moved to the U.S. House whose own proposal is aiming to cut as much as $134 billion from food stamp spending, says Hinde.
“The $4.5 billion senate food assistance cut would deepen an already overwhelming nutrition problem in Chicago,” Hinde added. “The $134 billion house cut would spread misery and hunger throughout Illinois and Chicago.”
“The cuts to supplemental nutrition assistance will undermine the health of poor people with chronic disease like diabetes and HIV/AIDS,” said Hinde. “These foolish cuts will simply drive up costs to the Illinois and federal Medicaid program.”
In Illinois, as of March 2012, there were 1,856,202 food stamp recipients or 14.4% of the population. That is an overall 1.9% jump over March 2011 of last year.
The average monthly food stamp benefit per person in Illinois is $139.15, down from $141.00 in FY 2010.
Hinde also warned that senior households are at greater risk food insecurity.
Analysis of federal data from the Current Population Survey’s Food Security Supplement shows that in 2009, about 19% of households with adults ages 60 and over with low incomes–under 185 percent of the poverty line–were food insecure. In comparison, slightly less than 15 percent of all households were food insecure.
“Shrinking food stamp coverage will likely hit senior citizens the hardest,” said Hinde.
Additionally, Hinde noted that the federal food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has successfully eliminated waste, fraud, and abuse in the last decade.
“The food stamp program is working at a 95% efficiency and accuracy rate,” said Hinde, “The people who legitimately are food insecure are legitimately receiving food assistance.”
A final farm bill will be negotiated between the House and Senate over the next few weeks.