Hunger Games: Philly food pantries in trouble
The $45 billion-plus increase to the supplemental nutrition assistance program, or SNAP, as a result of 2009′s stimulus package will be cut Nov. 1. The move will leave a huge gap for low-income families who rely on food stamps and groups like Philadelphia’s Philabundance wondering how food pantries will fare in just a week.
Bill Clark, Philabundance president, is worried that a lot of families don’t even know this is on the horizon.
“I’m guessing it’s going to come as quite a shock,” Clark said. “When it happens, their budget is going to see a hit and generally, we believe that SNAP benefits aren’t enough to take someone through the month anyway.”
Philabundance is doing all they can to stock the shelves while partnering with major players in town for food drives and collecting money to buy food. Stock nearly clears out at the end of each month and with the cuts coming during the same month as Thanksgiving, the holiday could be especially hard for some families.
Typically, Philabundance would collect food through drives to last them into the next season. When the recession hit, the group tripled the amount of food collected. They still ran out.
“Even though it’s tripled, we can’t keep up with the demand,” Clark said.
One would think the holidays are the biggest time of the year for food pantries but “there’s a seasonality to it,” Clark explained.
Food drives are held all year with much giving happening in November and December. One of the biggest local fundraisers is WMMR’s “Camp Out For Hunger” collection. But the peak season is in May and June, when kids stop getting breakfast and lunches at school.
“So much of our demand is driven by children,” Clark said.
According to reports, the 2009 jump for an average household of four went from $588 a month to $668 a month. After Nov. 1, reports say the average family could see a five-percent cut. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, that comes to less than $1.40 per person, per meal for the next fiscal year. Clark estimates about a $40 a month hit to the average family who seeks food assistance.