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Thousands Of Virginians Could Lose Access To Food Benefits Under Trump Administration Rule

Food Insecurity VA
FeedMore and partner food bank Healthy Harvest cover 29 counties and five cities in Central Virginia. (Image: FeedMore)

The Trump administration finalized a rule on Wednesday with stricter work requirements for about 688,000 Americans who qualify for food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Currently, "able-bodied" adults, between the ages of 18-49 who don’t have any dependents, are required to work at least 20 hours per week, or risk losing their SNAP benefits. But states with high unemployment rates or insufficient jobs could waive the requirement for individuals having trouble getting back into the workforce. 

The Trump administration’s new rule makes it harder for states to bypass work requirements and only makes exceptions for areas with unemployment rates of 10% or higher

Doug Pick is president and CEO of the hunger relief organization FeedMore. He said food banks can help those that might not qualify for SNAP after the new rule.

“For every 12 meals that are provided through SNAP, food banks provide 1,” Pick said. “Many of our clients are the folks who have $300 car bill and can’t pay it. And next thing you know, they’re out of that job, they have to work through that situation, they drop through this crack — it’s those folks that are being affected by this.”

FeedMore is one of seven food banks in Virginia operating under Feeding America’s umbrella. Pick said he thinks more people will reach out for assistance after the change. 

“Hunger is an equal opportunity issue,” Pick said. “There are certain differences in urban and rural environments. Hunger is pretty consistent.” 

Pick said food insecurity impacts people living in Virginia cities and rural areas alike — cities are more dense, and thus see a larger volume of food insecurity, while rural areas suffer from high percentages in comparison to their populations.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue wrote an op-ed last year touting benefits of the new rule — self sufficiency and productivity, adding that it would ensure “the health and stability of SNAP for those who truly need it.”

It’s not clear how many Virginians will be affected by the change. As of May of this year, more than 700,000 Virginians qualified for SNAP benefits. The new rule will take effect in April of next year.