Thanksgiving: Food stamp cuts leave pantries struggling to meet rising need
By Elisha Fieldstadt, NBC News
pantries and food banks struggled to meet demand this Thanksgiving, just
weeks after food stamp cuts for millions of Americans took effect.
Nov. 1, the 47 million people who rely on food stamps — also known as
the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — saw a decrease in
benefits when Congress allowed a 2009 program funding boost to expire.
As a result, a family of four will receive $36 less in food stamps in
November and each month thereafter, according to the USDA.
our food banks have really ratcheted up what they have had to serve,"
said Ross Fraser, media relations director at Feeding America, a network
of 200 food banks that serve 61,000 food pantries across the nation. In
2010, Feeding America determined that 37 million Americans turn to food pantries each year.
the nation, food pantry workers say they have seen a rush of clients,
including many who have never turned to a pantry before but now "need
help more often because they have fewer food stamps," Fraser said.
Marianne Smith Vargas, chief philanthropy officer at Foodbank of
Southeastern Virginia, said, "We are hearing story after story about how
a family was just making ends meet on what they received in food stamps
prior to the cut. Now, even the smallest cut is forcing them to come
to the Foodbank for help."
This month, Foodbank has seen a 40
percent jump in families seeking assistance compared with November 2012,
and most of those families are first-time clients, Vargas said.
NY Common Pantry in Manhattan, officials have seen a 25 percent
increase in new families in 2013, "even before the SNAP cuts took
effect," said Kelly Barkley, a development associate.
So far, the
pantry has been able to provide for the influx of new applicants,
executive director Stephen Grimaldi said, but additional potential SNAP
cuts looming in Congress "may change this in the near future."
said that NY Common Food Pantry has also had to adjust to a lack of
government funding this year. In 2012, the U.S. government purchased
$560 million worth of food for charities, but in 2013 the funding was
slashed to $495 million. Feeding America's director of tax and commodity
policy, Carrie Calvert, said food banks will have to find a way to
compensate for the 25 percent decrease in federal food deliveries.
reductions in government aid occurring in tandem with the November food
stamp cuts have forced NY Common Food Pantry to "nimbly use resources,"
Barkley said. "Perhaps there's some days where we don't offer poultry,
but we will have another source of protein," she said.
Trim, 31, a single mother of seven who visits NY Common Pantry every two
weeks, has detected the cutbacks. "I noticed that they used to do a lot
more meats and things and sometimes eggs … I've not seen that now," she
Trim said she relies on her food stamps to fill the gaps of
what she's not getting at the food pantry, but those run out within
three weeks, which was common among SNAP recipients even before the
cuts, according to Feeding America.
After the cuts, SNAP
benefits allow an average of $1.40 per person per meal, according to the
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Meanwhile the average cost of a
meal in most states hovers around $2.50. In New York, the average price
of a meal is $2.68.
Trim said she was grateful that NY Common
Pantry would provide her with a turkey for Thanksgiving. Only those who
are members of the food pantry can register for the holiday extra, she
said, and since so many new people are visiting now, "there are still
going to be a lot of people that aren't going to be able to collect this
year," she said.
"It's really stressful," said Trim, whose children range in age from four months to 13 years.
the Door of Hope food pantry in Los Angeles, director Lydia Cardenas
sees countless clients facing Trim's predicament. Prior to Nov. 1, she
saw one high-traffic day a week, but "now we're always busy," she said.
impossible to keep up with the demand, because everybody is
struggling," said Cardenas, who recently registered for unemployment
herself after realizing it was impossible to remain salaried at the
pantry due to funding cuts.
"I'm a volunteer, effective October
31," Cardenas said, but added, "When you help somebody else, it takes
the focus off your own problems."
The pantry was able to assemble
55 Thanksgiving baskets, but Cardenas wishes they could have made enough
to avoid adding applicants to an ever-growing waiting list. "The hard
part of doing this is that we hate saying no," she said. "We just don't
have the ability to do much more.
Saturday, January 20 2018 2:07 AM EST2018-01-20 07:07:04 GMT
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