Special Report: SNAP Benefits Put to the Test
As a single mother, Jennifer Smith relies on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help feed her children.
“Being a single mom, I’m the only one that can provide financially,” said Smith. “It’s really tough.”
Formerly known as food stamps, SNAP is a federally funded program that helps Pennsylvanians purchase food.
"It is a supplemental program,” said Department of Human Services Director of Health & Wellness Inez Titus. “When you're on a limited income and have bills and expenses, it helps to fill out your dollars in order for you to get the food that you need.”
Nearly 1.8 million Pennsylvanians receive SNAP benefits each month, including 52,700 people in Erie County.
Payments are based on income and household size.
"For a family size of one, the maximum benefits per month is $234,” said Titus.
However, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,
Smith will tell you, every additional dollar helps.
"I know a lot of people speculate and they think that people who are on state benefits are just using the system,” said Smith. “I'm telling you right now, if I didn't have state benefits, I would not be able to provide for my children with one job.”
To get a better understanding of what it is like for those who rely on SNAP benefits, Erie News Now's Jamison Hixenbaugh decided to live on a budget of $31.25 for one week.
The budget was based on the average payment of $125 divided by four.
His goal was to stay strictly to the budget, so he recorded every meal that he ate for an entire week.
Watch his experience in the video above.
This story is supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.