As the holidays approach, people tend to pay more attention to the needs of less fortunate local residents, but this month’s cuts in federal food stamp assistance are a reminder that, for some, having enough food to feed themselves and their families is a year-round concern.
In 2009, the federal economic stimulus package provided extra funding for the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Now that the recession is easing across the country, those funds are being withdrawn. The result is that a family of four that had been receiving $668 per month in food stamps, now will receive $632. That loss of $36 may not seem like much, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates it equates to a loss of about 27 meals a month.
That’s quite a few meals to simply skip. In Douglas County, the reduction in food stamp funding amounts to 31,886 missed meals a month for the 8,659 people who receive assistance. That number includes about 3,500 children.
In addition to this month’s cuts, about 20,000 unemployed Kansans without children are losing food stamps because of the state’s recent decision not to seek renewal of a federal waiver that allowed them to receive that assistance. Last year, a change in the way the state determines eligibility for food stamps, resulted in assistance cuts for thousands of children living in households that contained a mixture of U.S. citizens and undocumented immigrants.
All of these factors have placed significant new pressures on non-profit organizations that provide food assistance. The largest such agency in Lawrence is Just Food, which serves as the city’s central food bank. To help deal with the expected upturn in demand for its services, Just Food officials are seeking additional donors willing to make monthly pledges.
Whether or not a monthly pledge fits into your budget, it’s a great time to consider stepping up with additional support for Just Food, LINK and other local agencies that assist residents who may otherwise go hungry. Many children get their main meals at school so vacations around Thanksgiving and Christmas likely will spur even more demand at local agencies.
Especially around the holidays, many of us would have to admit we often get too much to eat. We should all be concerned with children and families in our community having at least enough to get by.