Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food assistance benefits in Florida are breathing a sigh of relief that the federal government shutdown has ended. For them, this means that their March benefits are likely safe.
But this doesn’t mean that SNAP recipients in Florida won’t be suffering any consequences.
Because the shutdown forced the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to provide SNAP recipients their February benefits in January — up to a month or more early for millions of families — Floridians won’t be getting any SNAP benefits again until March. Due to Florida’s issuance schedule, some families may have to wait more than 50 days before their next allotment.
Last week, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is in charge of SNAP on the national level, urged Florida and other states to develop a plan to shorten the interval between February and March issuances. However, even if DCF creates a game plan to minimize the length of time between issuances, families will still have a longer delay in getting their SNAP than usual.
This means that Floridians will have to do some extremely disciplined budgeting to make their assistance last. Don’t get me wrong. SNAP recipients in Florida are masters at planning meals better than most families. After all, on average, they make do feeding their children on about $1.37 per person per meal, an extraordinary feat in and of itself. Still, stretching already inadequate benefits for longer than normal is asking that families exercise rationing skills of the superhuman ilk.
Even with no delay in getting SNAP, many families are often forced to turn to food banks and pantries. SNAP wasn’t devised to meet 100 percent of a family’s food needs: the SNAP program expects recipients to spend 30 percent of their resources on food. Under ordinary circumstances, there is little left to eat on by the end of the month.
So, keep an eye out for what DCF plans to do to lessen the hardship before Floridians run out of ways to pinch more pennies from their food budget. With dwindling resources to feed their families, our friends and neighbors who struggle to put food on the table need a quick and meaningful solution.