Cumberland Times-News

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November 6, 2013

Food stamp cuts expected to hit home

Decrease in benefits creating higher demand at food banks

CUMBERLAND — November is the first month that cuts in food stamp benefits take effect across the country and those who depend on the supplemental program to put food on the table are expected to feel the pinch.

“There are 7,707 households in Allegany County as of September that receive food stamps,” said Bill Walker, the assistant director for family investment for the Allegany County Department of Social Services.

The lowering of food stamp benefits has occurred as a result of the expiration of the increased benefits extended under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, an economic stimulus plan.

Walker said the total number of individual participants receiving food stamps in Allegany County is 15,260.

“We have had a number of concerned inquiries,” said Walker.

Officials said the decrease in food stamps will also have an effect on food banks and food pantries.

“It’s projected that food banks will need to have two to four times the goods to meet the demand. That’s an impossible request,” said Kurt Hoffman, chair of the social and behavioral sciences department at Allegany College of Maryland.

Walker said the average household size in Allegany County that receives food stamps is 1.9 and the average value of the food stamps received per household is $221.28 per month.

The cut to the food stamp program is expected to cause a decrease of around $36 per month for a family of four, $29 for three, $20 for a family of two and an $11 loss for an individual, Walker said.

“Already, some of our agencies have had as many as 20 new requests for food assistance,” said Diana Loar, the executive director of the Western Maryland Food Bank.

There are around 47 million people who receive some type of supplemental food assistance across the country. Officials said the decrease in food stamps could also have a negative effect on the economy.

Maryland is projected to lose around $82 million statewide because of the cuts, according to a Capital News Service story.

Administered under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, every dollar spent in food stamps creates about $1.70 in additional economic activity.

Walker said that $1.7 million in food stamps were issued in Allegany County in September.

“Following the cuts, the average family of four will receive about $358 per month,” said Hoffman.

Walker said people have known about the decrease, but it really hits home for them when they actually see it on their dinner table.

“The part that scares me is the demand it will place on supply,” said Loar.

Loar’s food bank on Frederick Street acts as a wholesale supplier for several food outlets and pantries.

“We (the food bank) are not the only one feeling it. All of our agencies are feeling the increased demand,” said Loar.

The Western Maryland Food Bank is holding its annual Bags of Plenty food drive beginning Nov. 13. The food bank distributes bags and encourages people to fill the bags with nonperishable foods and return them to the food bank or a designated site.

For more information on the food drive, call the Western Maryland Food Bank at 301-722-2797.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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