Food banks prepare for overflow as food stamp recipients face cuts

Posted at: 10/26/2013 7:01 PM
Updated at: 10/26/2013 11:19 PM
By: Joangel Concepcion

A major food bank in our area is gearing up for a rush of people as the clock winds down on federal food stamp funding.

More than 62,000 people in Monroe County could see a different amount on their benefits card when they hit the grocery store Friday.

That's because unless the federal government steps in, a boost to the food stamp program known as SNAP, will expire November 1.

This has led officials at local food banks, like Foodlink, to keep a close watch on things, making sure they can handle the demand.

Since the recession, families have been receiving a boost in benefits under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Now, that boost is set to expire and that's why many families in our area are signing up for help from Foodlink.

Officials say they are ready for more families if they need the help. They have already seen an increase in demand since they began their SNAP Outreach Program in March.

They used to get around 50 applications per month, but last month that number doubled.

Foodlink already redistributes more than 16-million pounds of food annually to more than 450 local food banks and shelters throughout 10 counties.

Organizers say the cutbacks are concerning, especially since they say 76-percent of people that receive SNAP benefits in our area are seniors, people with disabilities and children.

Foodlink officials say they are very informed about the cut backs and this is something they will continue to keep on their radar.

“Close to 70-percent of the people that go to our pantries and soup kitchens rely on the SNAP program, and it's also estimated that 90-percent of their benefits are redeemed by the third week. So now that they have less benefits, the question is are they going to be relying on our kitchens and pantries a little bit earlier than the third week? Are those lines going to be even longer because of those SNAP changes,” said Jerome Nathaniel, SNAP Outreach and Assistance Coordinator for Foodlink.

For those who do receive SNAP benefits, Foodlink does have a curbside program where they offer discounts. At this time, especially before the holidays, organizers say they are really relying on the generosity of the community,  such as donors and people that do food drives.

Organizers say there are always opportunities to help. If you would like to donate food, money or time, click here.