Holidays on food stamps & federal SNAP trends

As holidays approach, food banks and pantries remind us how tight life on food stamps is. Federal trends suggest federal aid could decrease.


Food pantries and soup kitchens have to be ready when holidays like Thanksgiving approach. Image: Chris Light / CC BY-SA

Seventy-six percent of food stamps are used by households with children, 11.9 percent by households with a disabled family member and 10 percent to households with senior citizens, according to SNAP to Health. The holidays are an uneasy time, stretching what is already limiting.

While many food aid organizations and others advocate for increased spending through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and welcomed past SNAP funding increases to states and local governments, others want to see stricter work requirements imposed on the program and reduce Federal aid overall.

Holidays Put a Lens on a Life Stretching Food Stamps

Susan Bartosch, the director of external affairs at the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio, said the reality is benefits “are enough to last about mid-month,” according to an article in Attn about how people on food stamps pay for Thanksgiving.

Those depending on food stamps have to plan well and cobble together resources to complete the holiday table for their families. One 65-year-old, semi-retired matriarch who started using SNAP benefits when her husband passed away offered her tips to Attn:

“You have to balance what you would have to use,” she said. “You say, ‘Well I’ve got this big occasion coming up so now I have to factor in a turkey, which may be like $20 and then you have to have all the trimmings.’” She also seeks out church pantry and food bank distributions to get holiday food.

According to an UnDark report, food stamps are a thrifty food plan based on a bare-bones household budget developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “It currently determines that a man between the ages of 19 and 50 would spend $42.80 on food weekly. A woman in the same range would spend $37.90, and a family of four with two preschool-aged children would spend $129.40,” wrote author Robin Lloyd.

Bartosch noted the food pantries and soup kitchens have to be ready when holidays like Thanksgiving approach. Requests for items like fresh or canned fruits and vegetables are always high on the donations request list, and requests for the 2017 holiday season are no different.

Editor’s Note. November 25, 2019. Many of our readers want to know, ‘Will I get my SNAP benefits on a holiday?’ Or, they are searching for an EBT holiday schedule. In some states, recipients will receive their EBT deposits on the same day each month — even if it falls on a weekend or holiday, such as Washington, according to the State Department on Social Health and Services. In other states, there can be delays with holidays. While USDA posts all state deposit schedules on its When Are Benefits Available page, the calendar does not account for state holiday changes. Further information may be available from the state EBT portals. Get more questions, such as eligibility requirements for emergency benefits, answered on FAQ page. Project Bread, which operates the website, also has a LiveChat feature and a service agent may be able to answer questions about benefit payments.

Food Stamps Help Kids Complete Basic Education

SNAP recently turned 40 years old, and the program remarked its successes as a bipartisan program that lifts people out of poverty.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) said 18 percent more of those that received SNAP in the 1960s and 1970s graduated high school compared to those that didn’t get food stamps, based on a study published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in April 2016.

Inside the War on Poverty: the Impact of Food Stamps on Birth Outcomes showed that “food insecurity in those early years may have harmful effects long after the period of hardship is over: teens who had experienced food insecurity in infancy are more likely to score lower on achievement tests, repeat a grade and fail to graduate from high school, for example.”

The CBPP also said SNAP participation led to improvements in reading and mathematics skills among elementary children that increases the likelihood of completing high school by 18 percentage points, and addressed other socioeconomic merits of food stamps.

SNAP Swells in 2012

In 2012, the numbers of people enrolled in SNAP swelled to more than 46.68 million. Though it had fallen by the time the next Presidential race began, President Donald Trump had long been critical of the numbers, posting his thoughts about it on Twitter, and continued to cite SNAP enrollment numbers throughout the 2016 election.

Breittbart News has been following the drop in enrollment since President Trump took office in January 2017, about 1.5 million to date, bringing SNAP enrollment down to about 41.2 million. Several news organizations have reported a more rapid drop in numbers was fueled by immigrants fearing deportation and cancelling their food stamps benefits, such as National Public Radio.

On its website, SNAP to Health, a grant-funded project of New America Health Policy Program, indicates that 39.8 percent of SNAP participants are white, 25.5 percent are African-American, 10.9 percent are Hispanic, 2.4 percent are Asian and 1 percent are Native American.

Other news agencies report efforts to reintroduce work requirements have contributed to this year’s uptick in benefit cancellations, a trend that began in 2015, according to the New York Times.

Watch a video about a low-income person starting SNAP:

Learn about administering the program in Project Bread’s seven video SNAP Trainer:

1: Introducing the SNAP Trainer from Kristin Provencher on Vimeo.

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.