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Food stamp cuts hurt those who struggle



In the late ’90s and early 2000s things were looking good for Cynthia Leggroan, now 57. She was working for a security company and at the Drake Power Plant and taking care of her grandniece. Although she hadn’t yet achieved a middle-class income, she was always able to make ends meet.

Then her health took a turn. In 2006, she had her first heart attack. Later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo a mastectomy in 2015.

Nowadays, Leggroan lives alone in subsidized housing and knows all too well the struggle to keep healthy food on the table. Her cancer has been in remission since 2016, and Leggroan has tried to stay healthy by eating right.

“Having the health problems that I have, I have to stay consistent with healthy food,” she says.

In fact, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network website states, “Research shows that the best formula for staving off another bout of cancer is proper nutrition combined with weight control and exercise.”

But those changes aren’t always as simple as placing different items in your grocery cart. For Leggroan, who is working to start her own security company, but currently relies on a monthly fixed income — Social Security checks and home health care assistance — that hovers just above the federal poverty level, the expense of those healthy choices has long been a problem.

And her income is just a tad too high for her to qualify for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the federal assistance program many of us still call food stamps. When the bills get tight — health care premiums increase, the rent goes up or there is an emergency — the first thing to go is Leggroan’s food budget. Sometimes she turns to food pantries that offer fresh food.

“It’s always a rat race,” she says. “Stealing from Peter to pay Paul.”
Leggroan’s currently in the process of filing bankruptcy, because she says during the time she went through chemotherapy, she used her credit cards to pay her bills and buy food.

Now the Trump administration is considering a rule change that would push 3.1 million people off SNAP benefits nationwide, including 33,000 in Colorado. Leggroan says she worries about her friends, many of whom are currently receiving $115 or less in monthly food income.

“Usually if someone receives SNAP, there isn’t any other money in the budget to buy food, all of their dollars are going out to other basic needs,” she says.

As Faith Miller reported in the July 31 Independent, “The rule would mandate that people between 18 and 59 who are making between 130 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,910 for a two-person household) could no longer receive benefits through [SNAP].”

Parents whose households bring in between 130 and 200 percent of that amount could only receive SNAP benefits if they also qualify for at least $50 in other federal assistance each month.”

To give an idea of what that looks like, according to a 2018 report by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, a single El Paso County parent with two school-aged children would need to make just over $51,000 a year to be self-sufficient.

Colorado ranks 43rd in the nation for access to SNAP with only 60 percent of those eligible getting the nutritious food they need, according to Hunger Free Colorado. Leggroan (who has received SNAP benefits in the past) attributes this to, “the process you have to go through for $15 in food stamps.”

Food stamps or not, Leggroan is doing the best she can to maintain a healthy diet and take her health into her own hands. She started growing food this year at the community garden at the church across the street from her home as a way to offset the cost of fresh foods.

“I’m so excited about the vegetables that I’m growing,” she says. “I wish I would have learned earlier.”

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