Eastern Iowa Food Pantries Fear Impact of Food Stamp Cuts

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Millions of Americans receiving help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will have to get by with a smaller amount every month beginning Friday. And food pantries in Eastern Iowa believe the cuts in what's usually referred to as food stamps will put even more pressure on charitable feeding programs.

To fight the recession, the SNAP program got increased amounts of funding to give to recipients beginning November 1, 2009. Congress did not continue that stimulus funding and that's the extra amount recipients will see trimmed from the monthly electronic benefits. Falling back to the benefit levels of 2009 will cut an estimated $5-billion from the overall food stamp program.

But recipients will have to deal with smaller amounts to spend on food every month. The change will mean the maximum benefit for a single person will drop from $200 to $189 per month.

A family of four will see a $36.00 decrease--from the current $668 per month to $632.

Most food pantries seem an increase in traffic the last two weeks of the month. That's when the money runs out. But Renita Robertson, who was getting help at the Linn Community Food Bank, said the decrease beginning Friday would be an extra burden in November.

"If you're going to cut from the poor, you need something to replace it. Places like this (food pantry) help us out. And you're going to need more when you cut so m any people on food stamps," Robertson said.

Dave DeWolf, a supervisor with the 41-year-old Linn Community Food bank, is expecting a big impact on food pantries beginning this month.

DeWolf said Linn Community spent $8,000 on food in October to supplement donations of canned items. He's not sure how much his organization will have to spent in November, but he expects the amount to increase. Linn Community has seen numbers of recipients grow continuously in the last three years from 8,500 people in 2011 to an estimated 14,000 in 2013. He said if the aim was to prove more benefits just until the recession ended, he hasn't seen the results in demand on his food pantry operation.

"Congress says I'm not going to worry about this problem let's throw it to the states. The states say let's give it to the cities. The cities say it's the responsibility of charitable organizations. Charitable organizations can only keep up so long," DeWolf said.

The food reservoir at HACAP supplies 99 food programs in seven counties. Director Amanda Pieper is also worried about the changes in SNAP benefits. She said the time between now and the end of the year is the big donation season for feeding programs. And she expects donors to hear more about the cut in SNAP benefits as a way to encourage more giving.
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