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Food pantries see increase in requests after cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 8:47 PM
Last updated Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 1:51 AM
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Jessica Smith patiently waited for the food pantry to open its doors Thursday, knowing she needs extra supplies to keep food on the table in coming weeks.

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Jessica Smith leaves with some food from the Downtown Cooperative Church Ministries food pantry.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Jessica Smith leaves with some food from the Downtown Cooperative Church Ministries food pantry.

After federal cuts to the nation’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – commonly called food stamps, Smith, of Augusta, must shop for groceries with $20 less per month to feed her and her two children.

“You have to make food stretch,” said Smith whose benefits were reduced to $347 monthly. “Some days you’ll have to just eat sandwiches. Some days you’ll have to go without eating at all.”

Reductions to food stamps might hit harder in Augusta than some cities. In Rich­mond County, 21.8 percent of families were below the poverty line and 19.2 percent received food stamps, according to 2012 U.S. Census American Community Survey 3-year estimates.

Other area counties with high poverty rates and people receiving government assistance could also be affected. In Burke County, 24.6 percent received food stamps, and 21 percent in McDuffie County. Of area counties, Aiken and Columbia counties had the lowest percentages receiving foods stamps at 15.5 and 7.1 percents, respectively.

Smith visited Augusta’s Downtown Cooperative Church Ministries, the city’s largest food pantry, for the first time this week. Many others waiting in line also turned to the food pantry for the first time having exhausted their reduced food stamps amounts or fearing they will run out before the month’s end.

On Nov. 1, millions of people across the nation began receiving fewer monthly food stamps allotments. The 2009 American Recovery and Investment Act boosted amounts to help people affected by the recession but the part of the law raising benefits ran out. Food pantries in Augusta started seeing longer lines and more requests for assistance almost immediately.

“We are beginning to hear from our pantries that they are beginning to see an increase in the number of families and individuals they are seeing each week and month,” said Travis McNeal, the executive director of Golden Harvest Food Bank.

Golden Harvest serves more than 300 food pantries, churches and social service agencies in 30 counties in Georgia and South Carolina. In the 19 Georgia counties it serves, the food stamps cuts amount to $15.9 million, McNeal said. Richmond County food stamp recipients lost $6.8 million.

The Downtown Cooperative Church Ministries, a mission of several local churches, will try to apply for more grant money to make up for the extra food supplies needed, said director Christy Cunningham.

About 90 percent of people who receive help at the downtown pantry are on food stamps, Cunningham said. It serves the first 75 needy people who line up at its door each weekday, and volunteers were forced to turn away between five and eight people each day last week.

“It puts them up against a wall, not knowing how they are going to provide the next meal,” Cunningham said.

Vicki Bukovitz, the executive director of Aiken’s Area Churches Serving Together, or ACTS, said the food stamps reductions especially hurt the elderly and families with children.

Carolyn Young, of Hephzibah, visited the food pantry Thursday for the third week in a row. Her food stamps took a big hit, dropping from $106 to $30.

“It shouldn’t have to be like this,” Young said. “People shouldn’t have to go hungry, especially the elderly and disabled.”

A BIG HELP

On Monday only, donations to Golden Harvest will be tripled by Bank of America. Donations must be between $5 and $1,000, and made by credit or debit card. Visit goldenharvest.org or call (706) 736-1199.

Comments (42) Add comment
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pgapeach2
1175
Points
pgapeach2 11/17/13 - 02:25 am
19
2
Okay, I'm confused

$347 a month and your at the food pantry? I do believe something else is going on other than buying food every month.

KSL
129373
Points
KSL 11/17/13 - 06:19 am
16
2
And she is not working

And she is not working because???

seenitB4
87116
Points
seenitB4 11/17/13 - 07:52 am
16
2
What did the Indians do? I mean really...

We haven't always had freebies ....my parents didn't have it...my grandparents didn't either.....so, a garden comes in handy & a hunter does too.

I think we will see more folks going hungry because we can't keep this overloading of the working taxpayer.....we are killing him, slowly but surely.

CobaltGeorge
158572
Points
CobaltGeorge 11/17/13 - 08:01 am
17
3
I Totally Agree,

“People shouldn’t have to go hungry, especially the elderly and disabled.”

BUT - Some Questions.

Who are those remaining 10 percent of the 90 percent of people who receive help at the downtown pantry are on food stamps?

Must shop for groceries with $20 less per month to feed her and her two children. ($5.00 per week)? Maybe, that may mean 5 - $1.00 lottery tickets that could not be bought or some unnecessary item outside of "Food, Clothing and Shelter" had to be done without.

How many of the Richmond county 19.2 percent families received food stamps are physically able to WORK?

Richmond County - 19.2 percent received food stamps,
Columbia County - 7.1 percent receive food stamps,
(I wonder what the reason for the big difference is??)

I would like to know how many of those who are waiting in line parked a 2012/2013 vehicle?

Don't get me wrong, there are some poor souls that dearly need our help, but then there are some........

scoobynews
3854
Points
scoobynews 11/17/13 - 08:02 am
26
2
Eat sandwiches!!

I do this every week for lunch at work without food stamps!!! It is called budgeting for those of us barely making it month to month while working full time jobs with no public assistance. If her two children are in school then they also get free lunch and at some schools free breakfast. My child gets neither free. I make it without an extra $350 a month why can't others. They need budgeting classes and learn how to cook to make meals stretch.

southern2
6129
Points
southern2 11/17/13 - 08:40 am
15
3
End SNAP now!

Obviously the program is broken, abused, and to expensive and should be totally dismantled. There are enough other redundant government programs to provide the 'poor' with limitless food each day. SNAP is the poster child for the redistribution network of other people's paychecks.

Sorry Smith had to actually yield to eating a sandwich. Bet she's never had a Wish Sandwich.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 11/17/13 - 09:32 am
1
0
Notice the charity is not reaching into its own pockets for $$$
Unpublished

Instead seeking more "federal grants" to buy food from GHFB. It is a cycle. It is a cultural of perpetual dependence. The SNAP funds are cut, but there are federal grants for food? And we wonder why the culture is dependent.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 11/17/13 - 09:34 am
1
0
Has the SNAP $$$ been cut or just moved to a grant fund?
Unpublished

SNAP, free lunch, free breakfast, weekend backpacks, visiting as many food banks as possible, duplication of services,

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 11/17/13 - 09:36 am
1
0
Anyone asking for I.D. at the pantry? NO. Duplication of service
Unpublished

It happens with all of these programs designed to help people. The schemers know the system and where they can "make the most money".

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 11/17/13 - 09:39 am
1
0
Private donations buy food, FDA gives food, SNAP gives money
Unpublished

for food, WIC gives money for food, Kroger gives food, WalMart gives food, federal grants of tax money give $$ to food banks,

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 11/17/13 - 09:40 am
1
0
America, the only nation with obese poor & obese starving
Unpublished

America, the only nation with obese poor & obese starving

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 11/17/13 - 09:41 am
1
0
Food for Votes. Food for Votes. It works everytime.
Unpublished

Food for Votes. Food for Votes. It works everytime.

tcsnider
1433
Points
tcsnider 11/17/13 - 09:55 am
16
2
$347 a month

$347 a month is more than I spend at the grocery store. But then I don't buy premade, processed food or junk food very often. Not sure exactly WHAT she is buying with OUR money....Looks like instead of SNAP it would be more economically sound to set up staple stores to give out controlled food items for the REALLY hungry. If they don't like the food, then get a job. If they are REALLY hungry, they will not complain about the food items.

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 11/17/13 - 09:56 am
10
2
southern said, 'Sorry Smith
Unpublished

southern said, 'Sorry Smith had to actually yield to eating a sandwich. Bet she's never had a Wish Sandwich.'
I have but most of the time it was a biscuit I was wishing to have some meat in instead syrup.

Fayette
89
Points
Fayette 11/17/13 - 10:51 am
4
3
Food Stamps

Is it true that the food stamp allocation can be put on a "credit card" and used at fast food places like McDonald's?

JRC2024
8854
Points
JRC2024 11/17/13 - 11:05 am
7
2
Quit making so many babies so

Quit making so many babies so you have so many mouths to feed. Clean yards, wash windows, clean parking lots. Find something else to do instead of waiting on all the government gives you. The old I understand, the young I do not.
CGEE you know the difference is in the population makeup. Workers vs, non workers.

Fayette
89
Points
Fayette 11/17/13 - 11:06 am
11
2
Jessica Smith

Where is the father of her 2 children and why is he/they not paying support. What is she doing to make them pay? Maybe I missed it, but I did not see that mentioned in the article. Wonder why?

Pops
8374
Points
Pops 11/17/13 - 11:42 am
15
2
From the article on the food stamp fraud conviction

"An April 2012 story in The Augusta Chronicle said the forfeiture claims included cash, plus a 2005 Chevrolet Corvette, a 2003 Ferrari 360 and a 2005 Maserati Quattroporte."

Until the fraud is addressed I really don't believe all these sob stories constantly being printed......don't mean to be heartless but enough is enough.......

Here's an idea.....have a reporter go with Jessica Smith on one or two of her shopping trips and detail just what she is purchasing ....let's truly write an in depth article instead of just doing an interview......

itsanotherday1
43016
Points
itsanotherday1 11/17/13 - 12:20 pm
7
1
"Bet she's never had a Wish

"Bet she's never had a Wish Sandwich."

Yep, had a few "jam" sandwiches along the way, along with mayonnaise, catsup, jelly, or anything else you could think of as a filler.

Had a pot of peas and a pan of cornbread or biscuits many time for lunch. Grits and eggs for dinner? Yep.

traumaqueen
48
Points
traumaqueen 11/17/13 - 12:23 pm
11
3
I wish!

I work 2 jobs, one full time & 1 part time, and I WISH I had that much money to buy a months worth of groceries! I'm a single mom & have no more than $200 a month budgeted for food. A sandwich sounds a lot better, more healthy, & more tasty than Ramen noodles. I went online & found I would actually "make" more money living off government "assistance". I have too much sense of self worth to be a dredge of society.

itsanotherday1
43016
Points
itsanotherday1 11/17/13 - 12:30 pm
11
2
"Looks like instead of SNAP

"Looks like instead of SNAP it would be more economically sound to set up staple stores to give out controlled food items for the REALLY hungry."

I argued that years ago on the old forums. You get a card with a $ allowance just like you do now, but it is only good at the "EBT Store". The stores would stock off label essentials, normal grades of meats, but no sweets or junk food/drinks. Want a cake? Buy the makings and bake one. Want tater chips? Buy potatoes and make your own.
I would go as far as allowing phone in orders for the elderly and infirm who have difficulty with transportation. No one wants to see them suffer, but something must be done to eliminate this abuse and dependency, else we are doomed as a representative republic.

allhans
23641
Points
allhans 11/17/13 - 01:04 pm
10
1
Has she tried finding a job?

Has she tried finding a job? Even part-time would be better than depending on others for food.

Sweet son
10398
Points
Sweet son 11/17/13 - 02:54 pm
8
2
Except for a few 'thumbs down' I think none of us have any

sympathy for the reduction in her freebee! Plenty of advice here but we are sure that none will be taken!

KSL
129373
Points
KSL 11/17/13 - 03:00 pm
6
3
The dependent on others for

The dependent on others for their gravy train need to wise up quickly. That gravy train will go away due to your hero, Obama.

KSL
129373
Points
KSL 11/17/13 - 03:11 pm
7
4
Why would anyone bring a

Why would anyone bring a child into the world that the father would not be responsible for? Because the givernment will pay. STOP PAYING. They will survive.

KSL
129373
Points
KSL 11/17/13 - 03:13 pm
7
4
Cut them off. That is the

Cut them off. That is the only way to rid of this. Cut them off!!

Grandpa Jones
1050
Points
Grandpa Jones 11/17/13 - 03:29 pm
8
1
....

First, we need to cut off all these government benefits that the "world" is getting then we can concentrate on our own "problem children."

KSL
129373
Points
KSL 11/17/13 - 03:31 pm
7
2
People will take care of

People will take care of themselves when they have to. They always have until the government made it unneeded.

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 11/17/13 - 03:47 pm
9
3
traumaqueen said, 'I have too
Unpublished

traumaqueen said, 'I have too much sense of self worth to be a dredge of society."
Good for you having pride. Dr Ben Carson said his mother worked 2 jobs and would not take welfare. She said if you get on it most never get off and she is correct.

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 11/17/13 - 03:53 pm
7
2
Ms. Smith looks pretty
Unpublished

Ms. Smith looks pretty healthy in the picture if you ask me.

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