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For the working poor, food stamp cuts mean living with a lot less

A sign in a market window advertises the acceptance of food stamps in New York City.

Forty-seven million Americans -- that's one in seven of us -- receive food stamps. Starting today, they'll be receiving less. A stimulus bill that had added federal money to what's called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, back 2009, has expired, and Congress has declined not to reauthorize the funding. For a family of five with no other income, this could cut food stamps by $43 a month. For low income people who are working, the cut would be less, but it will still bite.

Philadelphia resident Tianna Gaines-Turner and her husband have three children, ages 6 to 9. Aside from her job at a recreation center, she  is an advocate for low-income people with the project Witnesses to Hunger. No long ago, her family received more than $700 a month in food stamps. These days, the Gains-Turner family gets less than $200 a month, and the cut today will drop it further. She hasn't received the new calculation for her family yet, but a 5 or 6 percent cut would be a decent guess.

"I will have to clip more coupons, do more manager's specials at the supermarket, make bigger pots of food so I can stretch it out a little longer than before," Gaines Turner says. "Basically just cut any corners that I can when it comes to buying food and things like that. I have to cut back on snacks and things like that for my children."

All three of Gaines-Turner's children have epilepsy and asthma, and have special dietary needs. "My two twins take life-sustaining seizure medication twice a day, and all three of them take asthma medication twice a day as well," she says. "So I have to be very careful on the type of foods that I buy for my children, because some of the things that's in the food -- such as aspartame and sodium nitrate that's in hot dogs -- can make them sick."

While Gaines-Turner and her husband both work, they don't make a lot of money. She worries about how her family will make up the loss of assistance.

"I think that it's very important for listeners to understand it might sound like a small number for someone who's not receiving SNAP, for me and our community, it's going to be a big chunk."

We're asking people to tell us what they'd take from their core grocery budget if they had to cut around 5 percent. Tweet us @MarketplaceAPM with what you would cut.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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