Food stamp funding cut; benefit decrease hit on Nov. 1
Recipients of funding from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as food stamps, will notice their benefits have been reduced by a few dollars this month.
The decreased funding to SNAP is because of the expiration of benefits implemented in 2009 by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Congress voted not to extend the stimulus funding.
As of September, there were 5,585 individuals receiving SNAP benefits in Taylor County. Figures for October aren’t yet available.
Anya Weber, a spokesperson for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said the decrease in benefits is affecting virtually every recipient.
“We’re disappointed that this extra funding elapsed, but we still think it’s a very valuable program,” Weber said.
She said each household will see about a 5 1/2 percent decrease in their benefits. For a household of one, Weber said, the difference would be about $11 less. A household of two would receive about $20 less, a household of three would receive about $29 less and a household of four would get about $36 less each month.
“We hope that people use their benefits wisely when they’re at the store,” Weber said. “Get things that they know they will use.”
Becky Nash, county extension agent for Family and Consumer Sciences, said the nutrition education programs administered by University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service target low-income families and individuals who need nutrition education.
Nash said the programs help families plan their grocery budgets wisely and prepare healthy meals using simple, inexpensive ingredients. To reach out to individuals who can benefit from the education programs, Nash said those at the extension office work with local schools and give children the opportunity to taste fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as set up booths at health fairs, grocery stores on senior days, Market Off Main and Taylor County Farmers’ Market.
“There’s a lot of lessons to be learned in stretching those food dollars,” Nash said.
Nash said those who grew up in other generations often learned about the importance of conserving their financial resources and how to cook from their parents. But it’s the younger generation, many of whom don’t know how to cook from scratch, she worries about.
Nash said the availability of ready-to-eat, packaged foods that can be purchased with SNAP benefits is very tempting.
“But the more food is processed and becomes a convenience food,” Nash said, “the more expensive it is because of the increased labor, packaging, advertising and transportation.”
Nash said the programs help wean individuals off nutritionally poor foods such as chips and soft drinks, and instead use their money to buy healthier, more economical food items.
For those individuals and families who continue to struggle to keep food on the table, Weber said local food pantries and charity organizations have proven to be invaluable as they help fill in the gaps to ensure no one goes hungry.
“We depend on these organizations and we hope that citizens can turn to them in times of need, especially during the colder months,” Weber said.
Marietta Moyers, a volunteer at the Taylor County Food Pantry, said the pantry distributes food to about 300 families a month. Moyers said a family can receive items from the food pantry every two months. The pantry is open by appointment only.
“I feel that what we give is a great amount, and if used right, it will be a great boost to food stamps,” Moyers said.
Moyers said the pantry’s food items come from Feeding America, a hunger-relief charity, and donations from the local community. Moyers said the pantry receives much support from the community, especially during the holiday season. She said the food pantry has been blessed by the Lord through the community’s response and the workers, all of whom are volunteers.
She said this allows every dollar given to the food pantry to be strictly used to buy food.
Moyers said some people who rely on the food pantry don’t appreciate it or ask why they can’t have more, however, the majority of them are very appreciative.
“I feel people need to watch how they use food stamps and food pantry food,” Moyers said. “Others are giving this food to them and they need to realize that.”
According a news release from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, SNAP recipients can’t appeal the decrease in benefits because it’s the result of a change in federal law.
Weber said recipients are encouraged to use the state’s SNAP customer service website at snapfoodbenefits.chfs.ky.gov to access their benefits and can sign up to receive alerts in the event of future changes.
For more information about SNAP, visit chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dfs/foodstampsebt.htm.
By Leslie Moore
Central Kentucky News-Journal