News Local/State

Food Bank: Cuts To SNAP Will Be Felt After Holiday Season


The head of Eastern Illinois Food Bank says his facility will begin to see the impact of a cut to the SNAP program, or food stamps, by next week.

But Executive Director Jim Hires said those who receive the food through the Urbana facility likely won’t see the effect of that reduction until after the holidays.

He said that’s because between Thanksgiving and Christmas, many churches, businesses, and individuals typically step forward to help struggling families who also rely on food stamps.

The reduction to SNAP took effect November 1st.  That cut resulting from the expiration of 2008 federal stimulus funds is permanent. 

Hires said he’s now worried about more reductions that have been proposed through the farm bill, noting the U.S. House proposal seeks $40 billion in cuts to food stamps.

"We spread that out over all the food banks - the equivalent of what we would lose - if we spread it out equally to make it up," he said.  "We'd have to come up with an additional 7.5 million meals.  Last year, we did a little over 6-million.  It's important that we keep safety nets in place so people can move on with their lives."

Hires says the food bank normally distributes more than 600,000 pounds of food a month to facilities like Salt and Light ministries in Champaign, and the Wesley Evening Food Pantry in Urbana.

He said by early 2014, they’ll have less food to give out to more people.

Nathan Montgomery, the executive director of Salt and Light, believes there are more immediate concerns that the loss in food stamp benefits.

Montgomery said he's more worrid about the summer months, when the kids of food stamp recipients aren’t in school and don’t get receive free and reduced lunches.

He said most families at his food pantry got their meals for Thanksgiving last week, but volunteers were still filling carts with meat, potatoes, and bread late Wednesday afternoon.

Karen Taylor of Champaign is one who stands to lose $13 a month in SNAP benefits, and admits things will be tight while paying rent and utilities.  She's relied on food stamps for a decade.

“I’m just blessed," she said.  "I’m glad today I stopped here – yes I am.”

Montgomery said key among other concerns is a lack of jobs, or those with a living wage.