(MoneyWatch) It is late October, so Adrianne Flowers is out of money to buy food for her family. That is no surprise. Feeding five kids is expensive, and the roughly $600 in food stamps she gets from the federal government never lasts the whole month. "I'm barely making it," said the 31-year-old Washington, D.C., native and single mother.
Starting Friday, the money is likely to run out even quicker.
That is when Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits are set to fall for more than 47 million lower-income people -- 1 in 7 Americans -- most of whom live in households with children, seniors or people with disabilities.
Barring congressional intervention, the maximum payment for a family of four will shrink from $668 a month to $632, or $432 over the course of a year.
That amounts to 21 meals per month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The cuts will leave participants in the program, better known as food stamps, with an average of $1.40 to spend on each meal. The amount people get could sink even more if Congress makes deeper cuts later this year when House and Senate lawmakers try to hammer out a farm bill.
The Nov. 1 benefit cuts "will be close to catastrophic for many people," said Ross Fraser, a spokesman for Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief charity, which estimates that this week's SNAP reduction will result in a loss of nearly 2 billion meals for poor families next year.
Food stamps statistics SNAP Food for Thought/CBSNews
Food stamps are the government's biggest nutrition-assistance program for low-income people and, along with federal unemployment benefits, a key support system for the most vulnerable Americans.