Food stamp recipients to see shortfall

Billions of dollars expected to be cut from SNAP

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – One in four Floridians face food shortages everyday, but there may be more hunger pangs as cuts to the Supplemental Food Assistance Program begin Nov. 1.

Negotiations on Capitol Hill are about to have a drastic impact on millions of Florida's neediest. Those receiving SNAP benefits will be forced to keep an eye on how much they spend on groceries. Starting Friday, its likely billions of dollars will be cut from the program nationwide.

"It's a nationwide thing," said Rich English of Second Harvest of the Big Bend. "It's going to impact every state in this country."

More than 3.6 million of Florida's hungriest are about to see the amount of money they receive for the SNAP program -- also known as food stamps –- to decrease.

Up to $39 billion in cuts are possible for the program and funds from the stimulus package set to expire on Halloween. Anticipation is leaving food banks with already spotty shelves searching for more food and money to feed the neediest.

"As the community responds with the higher need, our food banks do a really good job on meeting those needs," said Zach McGee from Florida Association of Food Banks. "Can't make up the gap, but we'll try our best." 

A breakdown: Right now people on food stamps have a little less than $5 to spend on food daily. With the cuts to the SNAP program, that will decrease, while the demand for food banks will increase."

"Once the money runs out, they're going to turn to the soup kitchens and pantries which we provide food for," said English. 

The Department of Children and Family Services says they have been preparing for the budget reduction.

"For example -- A family of four will see a $36 reduction per month. A family of four with no income currently receives about $670," said Alexis Lambert from the Department of Children and Families. 

Six of Florida's metropolitan areas are in the top 25 for food hardships nationwide.

"It's about one in four people," said McGee. "We hope to see that reduced. We've seen slight reductions in it as we've seen the economy continue to recover."

The Senate and House are set to discuss the cuts Wednesday.

The Sunshine State also had the second highest increase in food stamp usage nationwide from 2011 to 2012, with a 9.7 percent increase.

Nationwide, Florida ranks sixth highest for children in food insecure households at a little more than 1.1 million needing assistance.