The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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September 25, 2013

Food stamp cuts will be felt by many

Enid, area food pantries bracing for hit

ENID, Okla. — Enid food pantries expect to see an increase in demand when food stamp allocations are cut in November.

They expect to see an even bigger increase if the current version of the federal food stamp budget remains as recently approved by the U.S. House.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has announced that food stamp increases given in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will expire Oct. 31. The reduction in food stamp allocations is expected to amount to $66 million statewide, enough to be felt by grocery stores throughout the state as shoppers have less food budget to spend.

Additionally, DHS said in a press release that although each household varies, a family of four with no income and no other changes to their case can expect a $36 decrease in their monthly benefits. That is the equivalent of $1.40 per meal, per person, per day. A family of four will lose the equivalent of 21 meals per month.

“SNAP has always been intended as a ‘supplement,’ and not meant to account for an entire food budget,” the DHS press release reads.

Carrie Sanders, executive director of Loaves and Fishes, said only 40 percent of Loaves and Fishes clients have food stamps as well.

“We try to encourage them, if they do qualify, to apply,” Sanders said.

Loaves and Fishes sees between 600 and 700 shoppers each month — one shopper for each household served, Sanders said.

The pantry has served 2,001 households with 4,667 people since opening a year ago.

“We saw an increase over the summer,” she said.

Clients must provide ID, proof of residency, proof of income and documentation for all members in the household. The Loaves and Fishes’ income limit for a family of four is $3,631 a month.

“We know this is going to expire in October, but there’s a bigger mountain,” Sanders said.

More drastic cuts to food stamps are coming down the pike.

“We are more worried about the new farm bill,” Sanders said. “It just passed in the House that they are going to cut $39 billion from food stamps, and it’s going into the Senate.”

Nathan Newell, caseworker for Enid Salvation Army, said he knows there are people who work the system of government programs, but it too often seems people who deserve to be given a helping hand are not given one.

“Right now I see a lot of families and I don’t see how anyone can expect them to live off the stuff,” Newell said. “I really think these subsidies are a modern-day slavery system that the federal government has set up. I know elderly people whose Social Security was cut, and they say it’s a mistake, and she’s expected to live on some $500 per month and $200 food stamps.”

During 2012, Salvation Army’s soup kitchen served 13,452 meals. Its food pantry handed out 18,010 sacks of food.

“I can only think the need will grow exponentially more if they cut back the benefits,” Newell said. “We are a faith-based Christian church and we believe the Lord will provide no matter what the needs, and we will stand firm in that faith.”

Worth Bracher, treasurer for Horn of Plenty food bank in Enid, said he hopes donations to the agency’s annual fall food drive Oct. 6 will be higher this year.

Horn of Plenty supplies the food that stocks shelves of Enid food pantries.

“We make no direct distribution to the end users,” Bracher said. “We go through pantries. Here in Enid I believe we work with 13 agencies. We see demand has been pretty heavy.”

Pat Brown, president of Horn of Plenty, said she hopes donations this year will increase.

“The people of Enid have always stepped up to the plate and we hope they will continue to do so with this coming food drive,” Brown said.

Gordon Jantz, family life minister at North Garland Church of Christ, said he expects participation in the church’s food pantry to go up.

Brenda Wright, coordinator of the food pantry, concurs.

“I can see a big increase,” Wright said. “Our clientele right now is a lot of seniors, but we do have our share of families, too.”

Wright noted the timing of the November cuts.

“Right in time for the holidays,” she said.

Wright said the church, which supplies food to 100 to 200 households a month, is thankful to have access to the Oklahoma Food Bank and Horn of Plenty to stock the shelves. However, she sees a need for more volunteers to handle the increased demand for food.

“I can see the facility needs to grow,” Wright said. “We’ve got a good system going, but I can see a need for a bigger system now.”

Wright also said the church supplies food to a number of veterans.

“We also make sure our veterans and our elderly people have what they need,” Wright said. “If there’s a need, we try to take care of it.”

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