With the end of the SNAPS food stamp program, food pantries have been handling an influx of people who once relied on the program to get their food and essentials. Heidi Wigdahl
(WBIR-Maryville) It has been close to three months since a nationwide reduction to food stamp benefits kicked in, affecting more than a million Tennesseans.
Since those cuts, a Blount County food pantry said it is helping more people than ever before.
Within the last year, traffic has increased at the Community Food Connection of Blount County (CFC) by 6.25%.
For the past 73 months they have served, on average, around 5,500 people per month.
CFC saw an increase for the final 6 months of 2013, averaging about 6,500 people per month.
Members of Maryville High School's NHS volunteer at CFC every month and have noticed the increase.
"It's pretty heavy, especially in the morning when you get here at 10 a.m. When the building opens, you've already got a line way out the door and they're knocking on the door saying, 'Are you guys ready to open yet?'" said Preston Butler, president of Maryville High School National Honor Society.
In 2009, lawmakers added extra food stamps to help Americans during the recession. But in November, that money through a program called SNAP, ran out. Recipients saw a 5.5% reduction to their benefits or about $36 per month for a family of four.
"It was a little supplemental income... and now we're seeing them coming over here much more often then they would have. And more people who have never come before are even coming coming now," said Larry Ladd, CFC publicity director.
To help raise funds, CFC will host its second roast of a community leader on January 28.
The roast will feature Maryville High School Football Coach George Quarles.
Tickets are $30.
Checks can be mailed to: Community Food Connection P.O. Box 786 Alcoa, TN 37701
Those interested in buying tickets can also call CFC at 865-977-4400.