Local food pantries — and many of our neighbors — need help.
The holiday season is always a busy time for food pantries. The combination of year-end expenses, holiday pressures, the arrival of the heating season, the loss of seasonal jobs and other factors make for peak demand during December and January.
While food pantries anticipate the increased demand, this holiday season brings never-before-seen problems for food shelves.
Cuts to the federal food stamp program took effect Nov. 1. Those cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, widely known as food stamps, began with the sunset of higher benefits that were part of the 2009 federal stimulus package meant to help Americans through the recession. Those cuts mean more people are relying on local food banks.
“We really noticed a difference when SNAP was cut,” Margaret Beuerlein, director if the Ticonderoga Food Pantry, said. “A lot of people depend on food stamps.”
Contrary to common belief, many of those relying on food stamps are working people. In fact, nearly 30 percent of the adults receiving SNAP benefits have jobs.
Also, food stamps benefits aren’t exactly big money. The average monthly SNAP benefit per person is $133.85, — less than $1.50 per person, per meal.
“People are really struggling to make ends meet,” Beuerlein said. “We’re seeing more and more people who have jobs, the working poor. The cost of living has gotten greater than many incomes in our area. People can’t live on minimum wage.”
The Ti Food Pantry has served an average of 100 families a month in 2013, but in October that number jumped to 178. Beuerlein expects it to grow further.
“That’s families,” she stressed. “That doesn’t count the children. I don’t know how many actual people are being served at the food pantry. I know it’s more than ever before.”