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SNAP cuts will mean busier regional food pantries

Less support from government program creates higher need

 Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York Executive Director Mark Quandt with 40,000 lbs of donated nonperishable food items.

Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York Executive Director Mark Quandt with 40,000 lbs of donated nonperishable food items. Photo by Zan Strumfeld.

— Food banks throughout the country could be in need of additional donations this holiday season because of a recent decrease to all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

With Thanksgiving weeks away, cuts to SNAP have come at an inopportune time. As of Nov. 1, all recipients of SNAP benefits will see an average decrease of $11 per person, per month. It is now expected a greater number of people will need to supplement the loss through the use of food banks.

“We are definitely expecting an increase in usage,” said Natasha Pernicka, director of The Food Pantries of the Capital Region, a coalition of 53 food pantries from across the region. “Many pantries are already reporting a record number of families seeking assistance.”

Pernicka said the cuts could be catastrophic for some families. The benefits are supposed to be used as a supplement to the recipients’ income, but oftentimes, tough decisions have to be made between paying essential bills and food. These decisions often leave people with less food to eat than desired.

The decrease to SNAP benefits come as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 expires. The act was passed during the recession to help those in need during the economic downturn. Many SNAP recipients saw an increase of 13.6 percent in their allotment.

Ann Malak, a managing attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, said unfortunately the economy hasn’t returned to the same level.

Paralegals at Legal Aid help clients to navigate the food stamp application process. Malak said they too are waiting to see what the outcome of the expiration of ARRA will be. Some may opt to not bother signing up for the benefits because taking the time to do the paper work may be perceived as too troublesome for the amount they receive in aid.

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