University of Maryland Extension

UMD Nutrition Educators Help Citizens Deal with Food Stamp Cuts

University of Maryland Extension nutrition educator Joi Vogin leads a grocery store tour.
Image Credit: 
Zainab Mudallal, Capital News Service

On November 1, 47 million people across the country saw cuts to their benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly known as food stamps – due to the expiration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Nearly 800,000 of those affected were Maryland citizens.

Since the cuts took place, nutrition educators with the Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) Program administered through University of Maryland Extension have been helping residents across the state adjust to the reduction in benefits without sacrificing healthy food choices.

Extension educators are teaming up with the organization Share Our Strength to provide grocery store tours throughout the state. During the tours, nutrition educators teach participants how to compare food labels, develop a budget and shopping list, and prepare low-cost, healthy meals. After completing the tour, participants are provided $10 in free groceries courtesy of Share Our Strength. (Right: Nutrition Educator Quinney Harris leads a grocery store tour in Baltimore)

“Food stamps were never designed to be all of a family’s food dollars. They were designed to be a supplement but for a lot of people it is their whole food budget so they do stretch it really far,” said FSNE Director Lisa Lachenmayr.

FSNE – which encompasses more than 40 Extension professionals throughout the state -- is also directing residents to other forms of assistance to help stretch their food stamp dollars. For instance, educators are encouraging parents to inquire about free breakfast and reduced price lunch programs at their children’s schools, find out if they qualify for the federal Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program, or get in touch with local food banks.

“Most people will sacrifice food before they sacrifice money for bills like utilities and mortgages so the more resources we can provide for them the better,” said Lachenmayr.

The current reduction in benefits amounts to $11 a month for a single recipient all the way up to $52 a month for a family of six or more. However, Congress is currently considering legislation that would lead to more drastic reductions to SNAP. A Senate version would cut the program by roughly $4 billion over the next several years while the House is contemplating cuts as deep as $40 billion. As a result, Lachenmayr and her FSNE colleagues know their services will continue to be in high demand down the road in a state where the number of food stamp recipients has more than doubled in the last five years.

“It’s unfortunate further cuts are being so strongly considered at a time when food insecurity and hunger – particularly in children – are so prevalent in this country,” said Lachenmayr.

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