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Florida religious leaders oppose proposal to cut food aid


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A farm bill being discussed in Congress that could cut back on food aid has led to a growing movement by Florida religious leaders and other activists to incite opposition to the bill that could potentially cut billions of dollars in food assistance funding, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Republicans are pushing hard in Congress to cut back on the funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the food stamps program. Both the Senate and the House bills propose millions of dollars in cuts.

Troy Holloway, of the Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville, said all charitable organizations would be hit hard by this legislation.

“I think it will affect all charitable organizations, including churches, who are in the business of assisting people with financial needs, needs for food, housing and things like that,” Holloway said.

With the state of the economy, he said he can already feel pressure on the churches from the amount of people in demand of help.

“There’s no question that it would drastically impact the churches,” he said. “The fact is that we already have even more people coming for assistance than we’ve ever had because of the general economy and if their services are cut more we’ll have even more request for funding.”

Trinity United Methodist does not have a soup kitchen or a food pantry. However, Holloway said, the church receives a large offering of around $20,000 to $30,000 around Christmas.

According to the church’s website, there are plans available to help a person receive benefits through The Trinity Foundation, which was established to help facilitate the donations to and from the church. Holloway serves as director of stewardship development and is the contact for this program.

As a result of a majority of donations coming during the holiday season around December, at this time most of the church’s resources have been depleted and cannot be of much help to those in need, Holloway said.

“The last few months of the year we often have to refer them to other agencies,” he said.

Holloway said churches and groups in Gainesville like the Salvation Army and St. Francis House are having to work with smaller funding, which may ultimately lead to organizations having to turn people away.

Though Holloway said he does not know the exact details of the bill, he believes that it will affect organizations like his own.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the bills are a result of a push from agricultural producers who want the federal government to agree to years of subsidy spending to create jobs and fund the farm sector. To increase these subsidies, SNAP will suffer cuts.

Florida would feel the effects of the bill directly because the state has seen the second highest increase in SNAP use during the course of June 2011 to June 2012. During that time, 3.5 million Florida residents were participating in the program, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Kelsey Meany wrote this story online.

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