People living with disabilities in Georgia face many obstacles, including higher-than-average unemployment rates, lower-than-average incomes and costly medical expenses. It is little wonder that food insecurity disproportionately affects such people.
Food insecurity refers to a lack of reliable, consistent access to nutritious food. In many cases, that means people are unable to afford all the healthy food they need.
Households that include adults with disabilities experience a food insecurity rate of 33 percent — almost three times the rate at which households with no adults with disabilities are food-insecure (12 percent). This already alarming rate would be far worse if not for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
In an average month in 2015, SNAP served an estimated 4.5 million households across the country that included an adult with a disability — 1 in 5 of all SNAP households, according to the Food Research & Action Center. Specifically in Georgia, 169,000 SNAP beneficiaries live in households that include people with disabilities as of 2016 (according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s report, “Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2016”).
The assistance provided by SNAP can mean the difference between an empty stomach and having enough to eat at the end of the month. Despite its critical role in ensuring that people with disabilities — and millions of other people, including children, seniors, and veterans — get the nutrition they need, there are now efforts in Congress that threaten to dramatically weaken SNAP in the Farm Bill.
The U.S. House version of the Farm Bill includes changes to SNAP that would harm people with disabilities and their families and lead to greater hunger and poverty. The U.S. Senate Farm Bill, on the other hand, recognizes the important role of SNAP in addressing hunger and poverty, and upholds a longstanding bipartisan commitment to making sure people who are struggling have enough to eat, a commitment conspicuously absent from the House Farm Bill.
The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, the largest coalition of national organizations advocating for public policies that ensure the self-determination, independence, empowerment, integration and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society, sent a letter to the U.S. House leadership opposing the cuts to SNAP in the House bill. Forty national disability groups, including the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, joined in signing the letter.
As the legislation advances and the House and Senate work to reconcile the differences between their two bills in conference committee, the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities will continue to send Congress a loud and clear message to protect and strengthen SNAP. Congress should focus on supporting policies that end hunger and lift people out of poverty in Georgia and across the country.
Kyle Waide is president and CEO of Atlanta Community Food Bank. Eric Jacobson is executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities.