Food Banks Fear Strain as SNAP Cuts Approach


 Maximum Benefits Beginning Nov. 1 (Max. Monthly Cut)

  • Household of 1: $189 (-$11)
  • Household of 2: $347 (-$20)
  • Household of 3: $497 (-$29)
  • Household of 4: $632 (-$36)

Two-thousand pounds of food a week may not be enough to feed all the hungry at Our Savior Lutheran Food Bank in Lansing. Especially with food stamp reductions set to take effect Friday.

"I think we're going to be swamped and it really worries me," said Sharon Miller, the 15-year director of Our Savior Lutheran. "A lot of them have trouble getting by now even with the food stamps. And if they cut it, what are they going to do for food?"

She expects food to go more quickly than usual at her pantry, which has already served 8,000 people this year.

As per the 2009 Recovery Act, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will return to its pre-recession levels Friday. That means benefits for recipients will drop about five percent, saving the country $5 billion in the process.

The effect on each individual household differs, depending on size and income. A household of four, for example, will see a maximum cut of $36 a month and $432 a year.

"When you don't have nothing and you're barely surviving, that's a lot," said Angela DeGrate of Lansing, who will lose $11 a month starting Friday. "I have to use the food bank to get food or just starve. It's either you go get something to feed yourself or you do without."

And DeGrate isn't the only one facing that choice. That's why the Greater Lansing Food Bank is bracing for a rush of people.

"We do expect across the state, across the nation, that there will be added need," said Joe Wald, executive director of the Greater Lansing Food Bank. "So it's up to us to figure out how we're going to meet that need."

Wald says the food bank likely won't see a shortage immediately. The holiday season is typically the busiest time for donations.

"We feel pretty good about what's coming up over the next couple months," said Wald. "The problem is January, February, March, when people forget about this and go back to their normal lives. People are still hungry."

SNAP benefits could see a further reduction depending on what happens with the Farm Bill -- currently being debated in the U.S. Congress.


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