SNAP-Ed losses follow troubling pattern

SNAP-Ed’s job elimination follows a disturbing narrative of spending cuts.

University of Minnesota Extension will eliminate about 44 percent of its nutrition education program staff due to federal funding cuts. Extension announced the restructuring last week, and it could spell severe problems for thousands of low-income Minnesotans.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education will lose 67 of its 152 employees by early next year. SNAP-Ed educators offer affordable nutritional guidance to low-income people across the state.

For years, SNAP-Ed has had educators in most state counties, but now they may have to prioritize places with the highest number of SNAP beneficiaries. Extension Dean Bev Durgan told the Minnesota Daily that the cut may affect the 63,000 people who used SNAP-Ed last year.

Humphrey School of Public Affairs political science professor Larry Jacobs told the Daily that the SNAP-Ed job cuts were “an example of a pattern.”

SNAP-Ed saw its funding drop from $8.7 million to $6.3 million, a 28 percent cut, in January when Congress negotiated a budget agreement.

On Nov. 1, SNAP, formerly called food stamps, saw its biggest cut when the 2009 stimulus package increases expired. This cut affected more than 47 million people.

The cut in federal funding was technically just the end of an increase, but since 2009, the number of people receiving SNAP benefits has risen drastically. In Minnesota, nearly 85 percent more people received SNAP benefits in August 2013 than five years earlier.

With so many people now relying on SNAP, it’s not the time to cut benefits or nutrition education. The huge increase in SNAP users means that the program cannot afford to lose funding, and programs like SNAP-Ed are even more useful now than ever.