Metro families face food stamp cuts - KCTV5 News


Metro families face food stamp cuts

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Cuts come to federal food stamp programs nationwide starting Friday.

One in seven Americans rely on SNAP, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to feed their families.

A temporary boost that was given to the program during the economic recession in 2009  expired. Congress has the power to extend the boost but that likely won't happen, as Republicans have been pushing for deeper budget cuts.

That means SNAP loses $5 billion in funding. Each family will see a 5 percent reduction in benefits. 

For a family of four, the maximum benefit is $668 a month. They'll now only receive $632, a difference of $36. 

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates there are 317,000 Kansans using SNAP benefits. In Missouri, the number nearly triples with 933,000.

While a 5 percent cut may not seem like a lot, it's a lot to Kansas City mom Darlene Turner.  She's out of work and taking care of two children. Turner says she'll see her benefits drop from $200 to $189.

"Eleven dollars is a lot of money," she says. "I notice all the food went up in the store. Food stamps got cut and the food went up."

Another Kansas City mom, Susan Sitton, has multiple sclerosis and can't work. She's not yet sure how much money she'll be losing, but she's already planning ahead. "I'll look into local food pantries and see if there's anyone that can help me at my church."

Community food network, Harvesters, is preparing for just that. It provides food to 620 relief agencies in 26 counties across the metro. Harvesters is expecting a higher demand with the cut to the SNAP program.

Darlene admits some tough decisions are ahead but she's going to try to make ends meet for her two children.

"Just budget shopping, basically,"  she said.

Another organization some families are turning to for help is the Shawnee Community Services food pantry, located at 67th Street and Nieman Road. Volunteers are concerned their supplies won't be able to keep up with the increased number of families who will feel the impact of the food stamp cuts.

Maritza Alonzo, her husband and their two children visited the food pantry for the first time Friday.

"I went on Wednesday to the SRS and they told me that my food stamps were going to be lowered," Alonzo said, explaining that she was told she would see a $200 drop.

With a new mouth to feed, she said it's even more stressful for her family since her husband was diagnosed with an illness that keeps him from working.

"Her food (motions to 5-month-old baby) and then the kids' food first, then us. I would rather my kids eat first, than us," Alonzo said.

Cassie Jackson said she was barely able to feed her three daughters with the food stamps she had been getting, so the drop from $668 to $632 will hurt her a lot.

"Sometimes two weeks before the month is over, we are here," she said of the food pantry. "We're here getting food or we'd go hungry at the end of the month."

Marlisa Vankemseke is the volunteer coordinator at the Shawnee, KS, food pantry and said they expect a sharp increase in families turning to them for help.

"What we are seeing now is more people needing help. If they can get their bread here then they can use money for other stuff that we can't help with," Vankemseke said.

She said there is only one way to meet the extra demand.

"People need to pay attention and they need help their neighbors. And be community-minded," Vankemseke said.

Volunteers at the food pantry said they were lucky to get a big shipment of bread donated and delivered Friday, otherwise their shelves would have been empty.

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