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Cuts In Food Stamp Benefits May Put Pressure On Food Banks

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About 3.6 million Floridians who have become accustomed to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will have to adapt come Nov. 1.

At the start of November, food stamp benefits provided by SNAP will be cut due to the expiration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ website.

Factors that impact the amount of SNAP benefits a household can receive includes income level, the size of the household and family expenses.

The average family of four with no income will be receiving $36 less in its monthly benefits, Florida Department of Children and Families officials said.

“I love my food stamps, but that’s the only source I’m using right now,” Jamillia Payne, a food stamp user, said.

When food stamp benefits are reduced, she said she may have to rely on food banks.

Food banks are responsible for stocking up food pantries and other charitable feeding programs, such as soup kitchens, homeless shelters and church pantries.

Rebecca Brislain, executive director of the Florida Association of Food Banks, said SNAP is a critical safety net program for working and low-income families.

The FAFB’s network is bracing for increased need related to the drop in SNAP benefits, she said.

“When SNAP benefits have decreased the demands on food banks increase,” said Michael Demers, development coordinator at Bread of the Mighty Food Bank in Gainesville. “It’s got to come from somewhere.”

Demers said he has already seen an increase in need within the last month or two because of the impending decrease.

“Our food pantries have had to come in twice a month rather than once a month to be able to pick up enough food to feed people,” he said.

Demers is counting on community support to help offset the effects of the benefit cut. While the government provides some assistance, most of its resources come from donations by local churches, community groups or individuals.

“Once the cuts come down in November, there’ll be an influx of donations that come in from the community themselves, which is going to help through the season if people are as generous as we anticipate them to be,” Demers said. “After the season is done, the need will still be there and hopefully the community will continue to be generous.”

He stressed while SNAP benefits were initially increased in response to the recession, need has not waned since then.

“The need is still there because the problems that brought us to the economic situation are still there,” he said. “We still need jobs. We still need places for people to live. The cost of living is increased, so (the benefit cut) will still have a big effect.”

He said programs like SNAP only treat symptoms of the larger problems of hunger and poverty. Until a long-term solution is found for those problems, feeding programs and similar resources can only do so much.

“Putting a couple of bags of food in front of a family doesn’t solve the problems that they’re dealing with,” Demers said. “It just gets them through the day. We need to do more.”

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