Families turn to food banks after food stamp cuts kick in

Families are already feeling the effects of food stamp cuts put into place last week. East Tennessee food banks are left to pick up where the benefits are falling short.

More than one million Tennesseans are seeing less money for food assistance starting this month.

In 2009, lawmakers added extra food stamps to help during the recession, but that temporary money ran out. The federal government is dropping food stamp benefits 5.5% or around $36 a month for a family of four.

Grandmother of seven, Linda Blackburn said getting by on food stamps already wasn't easy. While she's not the primary care giver, she often takes care of them after school and on weekends.

"My food stamps goes for almost 10 people and it's really hard," said Blackburn.

On November 1, her food stamps saw a $30 cut per month.

"There's five meals right there that I'm already cut down. That hurts a lot," she said.

Blackburn said she is going to rely even more on places like Sevier County Food Ministries where you can get a bag of groceries once a week.

Director Jim Davis said when the food stamp letters went out about a month ago, their numbers went up. Last week, they gave out 1,600 bags of groceries. This summer they were passing out around 1,200. About 50 of those were new families signing up.

It's a similar scene 40 miles away at the Manna House Food Pantry at Cokesbury Church in West Knoxville.

Cokesbury's outreach Ccoordinator, Anna Lee, said they too have seen an increase in families coming in for groceries. About 15 visitors per day are new families.

"Unfortunately a lot of the folks that rely on food stamps or other assistance, they are still feeling the effects of the recession. They are still not getting enough hours at work, there's not enough jobs to go around," said Lee. "Though parts of the economy have recovered, our families are still struggling as much or more than they were before."

Both food pantries have been preparing for the increase for weeks by asking for additional food and financial donations. The Manna House is also recruiting additional volunteers.

They hope it will be enough to get them through. The end of the month is typically their busiest time.

"If it wasn't for the food banks and the churches, there would be times I wouldn't make it at all," said Blackburn.

If you would like to help, contact Sevier County Food Ministries or the Manna House. Both buy most of their food from Second Harvest Food Bank.


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