Food stamp cuts to affect local food banks and pantries

(WBIR) More than a million Tennesseans will be affected when a nationwide reduction to food stamp benefits takes effect on November 1.

In 2009, lawmakers added extra food stamps to help during the recession but that money runs out at the end of the month. Food stamp benefits will be reduced by about 5.5% or $36 a month for a family of four.

According to the state of Tennessee's website, in September more than 67,000 Knox County residents received food stamps.

Food banks and pantries expect to see an increase in demand. Community Food Connection of Blount County in Maryville is already seeing an increase. Volunteers serve about 5,000 people per month; in September, they saw more than 6,000 people.

"You can see that if we've gone from 5,000 people to 6,000 people, and the trend continues to be up, it looks like we may continue to have additional people. So any way you look at it, that's a very large number of people who come in," said Merlin Krull, volunteer coordinator for Community Food Connection.

Some of Community Food Connection's supplies come from Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.

"We're expecting more people to be coming for help to local church pantries, soup kitchens, and even shelters this winter and all of those places are going to be turning to the food bank to ask for more supplies," said John Bell, development director for Second Harvest of East Tennessee.

According to Bell, November and December are already the food bank's busiest months out of the year.

"There's a little bit more pressure to have square meals on the table during that time of year. It's also a time of year when bills are typically a little higher, particularly electric bills when you're dealing with the cooler weather," Bell said.

More cuts could be coming for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In September, the House voted 217-210 to cut $39 billion from SNAP over 10 years. The Senate is looking to make around a tenth of the amount of those cuts.

Both Krull and Bell said the food banks and pantries rely on community donations.

For more information, contact Community Food Connection at 865-977-4400.

Also, more information on Second Harvest of East Tennessee's website.


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