SNAP cuts mean more food pantry demand

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By Joshua Shepherd

Cuts in funding for the federal food benefits program known as SNAP may strain the ability of the local food pantry to serve family needs, said director Margaret Watson.

On Friday, Nov. 1, stimulus funding for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program, came to an end. The cut means that families on assistance could see an average of about $35 less per month, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

A release from the cabinet said that customers and recipients were notified in advance of the cuts. That may be the reason the Food Pantry, managed by the Harrison County Ministerial Association, has noted an increase in the numbers of their customers in the last two months.

Watson said that volunteers at the pantry have noted an increase in the numbers of families requesting help at the pantry, particularly toward the end of October.

“I think there have been some families who may have had cuts to their food benefits earlier this year. We have seen more people at the pantry than usual,” Watson said.

It used to be that if the pantry saw eight to 10 people in a day, the volunteers would say they were busy. Now those numbers are a slow time, she said.

On one day alone, Watson said, the pantry spent about $1,200 on food, which was over and above what they had in stock at the time.

In anticipation of increasing demand for food supplies at the pantry, Watson said that there will likely be an increased emphasis on the rules and regulations so that the organization’s resources can reach out to as many eligible families as possible.

There has already been a reduction on keeping stores of milk and eggs in stock, she said, simply because the items don’t have a very long shelf life compared to canned and dried foods.

“Fortunately, we have had community donations of milk, bread and country eggs to help out. We really appreciate the amount of support the local community provides,” Watson said.

Pressures on food supplies will also affect the process for families to get turkeys to celebrate the holidays this year.

Last year, she said the food pantry received well over 400 names of people requesting turkeys for the holidays. The pantry ended up with about 50 turkeys that no one claimed. 

“As you can imagine, turkeys don’t come cheap over the holidays. Think about what the pantry could have done with the money rather than buy those extra birds,” Watson said.

To deal with the strains on supplies and to keep from wasting money, the process for requesting holiday assistance will change and rules will be enforced.

“Families need to have been given assistance at the pantry through the year before they can put their family names in for turkeys,” Watson said. There will also be a process in place so that every turkey ordered will be picked up.

“As volunteers managing a service that relies on local community support, the food pantry is accountable to our donors, ministers and God that we extend help to as many families as possible. We can’t afford to waste our resources,” Watson said.

The Pantry’s resources will become more important to impoverished local families as more cuts occur. Harrison County people have always been good stewards to help other local families, she said.

 “We’ll stretch our budget as far as we can,” Watson pledged.