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December 16, 2013 / Rebekah Seder, Editor

What a month on SNAP is like

SAFETY NET | In a front page story today, the Post profiles a local family struggling to get by from month to month on food stamps and services from local nonprofit organizations — an experience that has become even more challenging with the recent reduction in SNAP benefits (WaPo, 12/16):

It was Thursday, which meant giveaways at a place called Bread for the City. Fridays were free medical care at the clinic in Southeast Washington. Saturdays were the food pantry at Ambassador Baptist Church. The 1st of each month was a disability check, the 2nd was government cash assistance and the 8th was food stamps…

Except this month had introduced a historic shift. The nation’s food stamp program had just undergone its biggest cut in 50 years, the beginning of an attempt by Congress to dramatically shrink the government’s fastest-growing entitlement program, which had tripled in cost during the past decade to almost $80 billion each year. Starting in November, more than 47 million Americans had experienced decreases in their monthly benefit, averaging about 7 percent. For the Richmonds, it was more. Not far across the Anacostia River from their house, Congress was already busy debating the size and ramifications of the next cut, likely to be included in the farm bill early next year.

It was a debate not only about financial reform but also about cultural transformation. In a country where 7 million people had been receiving food assistance for a decade or longer, the challenge for some in government was how to wean the next generation from a cycle of long-term dependency.

Raphael’s challenge was both more pressing and more basic: Her monthly allotment of $290 in food assistance had been reduced to $246. She already had spent the entire balance on two carts of groceries at Save a Lot. There were 22 days left until the 8th.

EDUCATION | D.C. teachers offer wide range of views on city policies (WaPo, 12/14)

– Lucy Bernholz looks at how big data will change philanthropy. (WSJ, 12/15):

Foundations will be able to develop, assess and revise their giving strategies by pulling information from community surveys, organizational reports and an up-to-date “ticker” of other philanthropic giving. As a foundation, for instance, considers its annual giving in support of early-childhood education, it will be able to click on visualizations of the past few years’ progress on reading readiness at the programs it has previously funded.

– Here’s a clever idea from a food bank in Madrid: a “vending machine” that lets you donate money for food items. (Guardian, 12/10)

– NPR’s Marketplace program ran a series of stories on foundations, donors, and philanthropy last week.

REGION | In case you missed it, the Post has a run down of the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Katz’s keynote speech at the the Council of Government’s annual meeting last week.

This has got to be the most insane and/or awesome holiday light display in the world.

– Rebekah

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