SNAP SPOTLIGHT ON KIM SPEIDEL
Every month Kim Speidel wonders if this is the month her ex-husband will pay child support on time.
If he does, she’ll be fine. If he doesn’t pay, things will be tight.
“The hardest part is I can’t rely on child support, so programs like SNAP are a godsend for us,” she says.
The Bismarck, N.D., mother of two – Gage, 12, and Aurora, 7 – works as an accounting assistant for part of the year. When she doesn’t have full-time hours, she works as a substitute at area daycares.
Since her divorce three years ago, her family has been eligible for SNAP benefits. Recently, she received a letter announcing that their benefits would drop from $350 to $200 a month because of changes to the federal program.
That change will have a big impact on the family of three. To stretch their food budget, Kim tries to get the children to The Banquet, a local feeding ministry, for meals two to three times a week. They also visit the local food pantry.
“We do what we can, but usually we’re eating ramen by the end of the month,” she says.
Without SNAP benefits, Kim says that she’d skip more meals. She already gives up fresh fruits and vegetables to make sure that her kids get them instead. She makes that decision freely, but wonders what kind of long-term impact that will have on her own health.
“I don’t want to eat cheap, fast food, but there’s not always money to buy enough healthy foods,” she says.
Her tight budget is further complicated when her ex-husband catches up on missed child support payment. If he pays more than a month at a time, the income makes her family ineligible for SNAP.
Losing SNAP benefits for a month causes the family to scramble. To keep from falling behind on mortgage payments and becoming homeless, they’ve stopped luxuries like home Internet service. Kim recently received a shut-off notice from the city’s water department.
“What do you do?” she asks. “It’s like squeezing water out of a rock.”
Kim recently heard well-respected community leaders discussing programs like SNAP. She heard them say that her generation has an attitude of entitlement, that they don’t want to work hard for what they have.
That hasn’t been her experience.
“I can only speak for myself, but I’m grateful for this program (SNAP) every single day,” she says. “I’m working hard. If I don’t have enough to eat, I can’t work. If I’m not healthy, I’ll need even more support.”