Local food banks prepare for impact of SNAP-benefit cuts on families


Senior nursing major Kaleigh Conner and graduate school counseling major Jasmine Finch clean up after serving food at the Kent Social Services on Jan. 21, 2013. Social-service centers worry that the cuts in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program will cause large increase in demand for their resources. Photo by Jacob Byk.

Christina Suttles

The 16 percent of Ohio residents who rely on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, saw a cut in their benefits Nov. 1 after temporary stimulus funding for the program expired.

Also known as food stamps, SNAP works to combat hunger and promote healthy decision-making in low-income areas. Those sponsored by the program spend a considerable amount of time addressing the malnourishment of children and individuals living in areas hit hardest by poverty. Seventy-six percent of SNAP households include a child, elderly person or disabled person, according to its website.

Families of three will see a cut of $29 per month, or $348 per year, while families of four will receive $36 less each month, or $432 per year. SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Employees of local food banks and shelters are trying to stymie the cut’s implications, and many worry the spike in demand for services will be overwhelming.

Candy Lorkowski, a spokesperson for Tallmadge Good Neighbors, a shelter that provides food and clothing to residents of Summit County, said families losing as little as $20 a month can drastically affect all nonprofit organizations, not just food banks. If people are forced to use more of their weekly income on food, there’s less for clothing, medical care and living expenses such as heat and electricity, she said.

“Our unit has always been able to increase the food amounts we give,” she said. ”But who knows how long that will be able to continue when more and more people are being laid off or only being able to find a minimum wage job.”

Lorkowski said it’s not just the cuts to SNAP that’s giving families difficulties. In order to be considered, a family’s income must not exceed the poverty line by more than 130 percent, or $27,560 for a family of four, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Families who make just slightly more than this line are oftentimes left with few resources.

“Our unit has been buying more food to help clients to continue to be able to feed their families,” she said. “Some are also losing their health insurance due to a family member making $5 too much to qualify for assistance.”

Michelle Hinton, director of external afairs for Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, said she’s already seeing an influx in demand for services and expects to see a steady increase as the months progress.

Hinton said support from the community is critical because more than one-third of donations come from local food donors.

“It’s difficult to say how the cuts will affect us,” Hinton said. “We do expect to rely more heavily on community assistance in the future.”

Lorkowski said with the holidays coming up, she hopes Good Neighbors will be able to provide families with the necessities they need to celebrate appropriately, despite the setbacks they face.

“We usually give larger food baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we can help with more food while people are struggling to pay their higher heating bills,” she said.

Contact Christina Suttles at [email protected].