"Telling participants that they could purchase this but couldn't purchase that well, we know from numerous studies that when you restrict benefits in any way, fewer people participate," he said. "With any sort of program, if you restrict choice, people quit. Nobody tells you how to spend your mortgage tax deduction; why would we dictate to someone who is hungry what they can or can't eat? Ultimately, it discourages participation in SNAP, and what that means is that millions more adults and children become food insecure."
As long as it's still an entitlement program, the main driver for SNAP is the state of the economy, which means that in bad times, the number of beneficiaries goes up, Gundersen says. According to the USDA, more than 46 million people used SNAP benefits in June 2012 a new record.
"I'm hoping that we've finally hit the ceiling," Gundersen said. "The economy would have to deteriorate even more for those numbers to go higher. Namely, we would have to have substantially higher levels of poverty and unemployment."
So when the economy improves, that number of SNAP recipients will go down by a large amount, Gundersen says.
"When politicians talk about cuts, whatever those cuts are will pale in comparison to what will happen when the economy itself improves, and fewer people are in need of SNAP benefits," he said.
|Contact: Phil Ciciora|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign