Food stamp recipients to see shortfall

Local food bank concerned about cuts

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A 2009 increase in food stamp benefits officially expired Friday, which means millions of Americans will have less money to spend on groceries.

The boost in funding for the food stamp program was part of a federal stimulus package.

Local food banks have already been dealing with a decrease in donations and now a decrease in funds for people on food stamps is worrisome for them.

Denise Belsch is one of more than 47 million Americans receiving food stamps. Before the cuts, she was only getting $39 each month.

"It's kind of devastating because today your income don't go nowhere. My income... I'm on disability and that pays my rent and my JEA, and then I'm broke," said Belsch.

According to the Agriculture Department, these cuts mean a family of four receiving food stamps will get $36 less each month.

"If you have a family of four for instance, and you might have one teenager in that family, Their appetites are insatiable and so you have to choose whether to fill their bellies or give them good nutrition," said Bonnie McNulty, co-director of the Mandarin Food Bank.

The Mandarin Food Bank teaches good nutrition while helping hundreds of people in the area.  That mission becomes even more difficult to accomplish Friday. 

"As you can see, we don't have enough product to fill the shelves for a week in some areas especially the more expensive areas like canned protein, tuna and canned meat," said McNulty.

The benefits go down just as Congress begins negotiations on a wide-ranging farm bill which could include further cuts to the program. The fluctuating amount of dollars recipients get is frustrating for both people trying to provide assistance and those looking for the help.

"There are people out here that really, really need help. Like me, I was one of those people that worked their whole lives. Now that I need help, I can't get it," said Belsch.

The Department of Children and Families says about 193,000 people receive food stamp benefits here in Duval County.

As food banks prepare for a wave of more people needing help, they're also preparing for the holidays.

Mandarin Food Bank is slated to donate Thanksgiving meals to 500 people on November 25th.  So far, it doesn't have any turkeys.  If you'd like to donate, contact the Mandarin Food Bank at 904-292-1675.

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