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First Person: At Risk of Hunger

Southeast Austin resident Maria Del Rasario Ramirez has lived and worked in the United States for twenty years, and she is one of 162,440 people in Travis County at risk of hunger, according to an estimate by Feeding America. As an undocumented immigrant, she is ineligible to receive food stamps, but she does receive benefits for her granddaughter, whom she is raising.

The food stamps program – officially called the Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) – makes up the largest portion of the trillion dollar Farm Bill, which expires at the end of the month. The Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House have been debating how much to cut the program. The Senate wants $4.5 billion in SNAP cuts. The House is calling for $16.5 billion.

Should the House version of the Farm Bill pass unchanged, it would mean 1.8 million Americans would lose their eligibility for food stamps. If Travis County saw an equal share of those cuts, it would mean about 5,000 people would lose benefits, although the Texas Food Bank Network says it could betwice that.

One in five Texans is at risk of hunger, according to USDA estimates released last week. Food stamp recipients get an average of $4.30 per person per day, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. And the number of food stamp recipients has soared since the economic downturn, with a record 46.7 million people relying on them in June. Since President Obama took office, spending on food stamps has doubled to more than $75 million.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
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