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Snap! Number of Durhamites receiving food stamps falls; new rule plays a part

The average amount totals only about $30 per week, but for some people, this food stamp benefit is the difference between being fed and going hungry.

Over the past five months, 1,172 fewer people in Durham received food stamps — also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — falling from 44,072 in January to 42,900 in May.

According to N.C. Division of Social Services data, the number of active cases and applications also fell from the first of the year.


Food stamps

(Click chart to enlarge it)

Part of the reason for the decrease is new federal rules governing SNAP recipients, known as able-bodied adults without dependents. These are people ages 18-49 who meet certain criteria: they aren’t disabled, they aren’t chronically homeless and they aren’t substance abusers whose condition prevents them from working. However, for whatever reason — a criminal background, for example — they cannot find a job.

These people would receive food stamps for only three months within three years, unless they volunteer or attend some type of training program an average of 20 hours a week.

This year, 2,700 food stamp recipients in Durham were at risk of losing their benefits, according to Durham County Department of Social Services data.

Durham is one of 23 North Carolina counties that have had to comply with the rules since January. The rules go into effect in the  remaining 77 counties on July 1.

As BCR reported in January when the rules went into effect, the unintended consequences of this policy are far-reaching. For example, if a 40-year-old woman is not working, volunteering or going to school 20 hours a week, but has a 17-year-old child who is on food stamps, then she would still be eligible for them as well. But when the child turns 18, both of them could lose their benefits.

Nationwide, about 1 million people are expected to lose SNAP benefits this year because of the rule, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports.

Here is a grocery list of what $30 could buy at major grocery chains such as Food Lion and Kroger. The prices come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and weekly store flyers:

1 dozen eggs ($1.68)

1 gallon of milk ($3.15)

1 pound Red Delicious apples ($1.42)

2 pounds bananas ($1.14)

1 pound coffee ($4.44)

3 cans beans ($5.10)

3 eight-ounce packages of cheese ($5)

5 yogurt cups ($4)

4 12-ounce bags of frozen vegetables ($1 each/on sale)


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