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November 2, 2013

Area pantries stock up as Congress cuts food stamps

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — With temporary increases in food stamp payments having expired Thursday, local officials said area food banks will see increased demand.

Beginning Nov. 1, a temporary benefit from the 2009 economic stimulus that boosts food stamps will no longer be available. According to the federal Department of Agriculture, that means a family of four receiving food stamps will start receiving $36 less a month — a 5-percent decrease. Other households will see a similar decrease.

The benefits, which go to one of every seven Americans, fluctuate based on factors that include food prices, inflation and income. The rolls have swelled as the economy has struggled in recent years, with the stimulus providing higher benefits and many people signing up for the first time.

Otsego County Department of Social Services Commissioner Joyce Boyd said 5,911 individuals receive food stamps in the county. The increase from the stimulus was never expected to be permanent, but the cutoff was not something that people can plan for, she said. Her department has not received many calls about it.

“It will fall on the food banks, because there is nothing more that we can do,” she said.

It may not seem like a lot, but it will have an effect on those struggling to make ends meet, said St. Mary’s Food Pantry outreach coordinator Janice Hinckley. It has already seen an increase in demand, with food provided for 244 families in October. It has been averaging 220.

“With the cuts, we are expecting more,” she said, which will require more donations of food and money to meet the expected increase.

The situation is the same in Delaware County, where Delaware Opportunities agency advocate Deborah Eisenberg said: “We are expecting a lot more people as a result.”

The cuts equal about 1½ days of food stamp benefits. The agency runs about 15 food pantries around the county. It will have to supplement its budget with increased donations of food and money, she said.

Opportunities for Otsego Executive Director Daniel Maskin said food stamps are a valuable benefit for those trying to “pull themselves up” because they mostly go to those who are employed. The reduction is significant for those who are already close to, or below the poverty level, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.