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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.

— Along with the average person seeing a cut of $11 per month, the minimum payment was reduced from $16 to $15 per month. Malak said her organization is now working with recipients to better educate them about budgeting their benefits, as a family of four would see a reduction of $44.

“It’s possible it hasn’t hit some people yet that they have less money until they get to the end of the month and it’s gone already,” said Malak.

Mark Quandt, director of the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, said it’s hard to know what the fallout will be, but past experience has been whenever programs are cut or the economy takes a turn for the worse, the number of people using local pantries tends to increase.

“I would assume that it will have a negative impact on peoples lives,” said Quandt.

Pernicka said the Food Pantries of the Capital District have seen a 52 percent increase of use since 2008. She said about 65,000 people in the greater Capital District struggle with food insecurity on a regular basis. The coalition serves enough food to provide 2.5 million meals annually, reaching about 50,000 local people.

Because of the expiration of ARRA, many who volunteer at local pantries are opting to take the SNAP Challenge from Feeding America. For a week, those who take the challenge can only live on $4.50 a day for all food and beverages.

Pernicka took the challenge for five days, as did Jane Sanders from the Bethlehem Food Pantry. Pernicka said she attempted to eat healthy by using a lot of her allotted funds to buy bulk vegetables, but at the end of the day, she continued to be hungry.

“Now, I realize I was being optimistic,” said Pernicka. “I found I didn’t have enough food and had a feeling of constant hunger. I never felt satisfied after eating my meals. I was not starving, just never satisfied.”

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