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Tue September 24, 2013
SNAP Reductions Worry Food Bank Coordinators
Clyde Fitzgerald Jr., executive director of Second Harvest, stands in the food bank's salvage storage room. This is where incoming deliveries arrive at the warehouse. The room should be filled with pallets stacked with boxes of food. Instead, it's nearly vacant - the only boxes here are empty.
It's a reflection of how bad the economy is and the high demand for food in the 18 counties the food bank serves. And the situation could soon get worse. Last week, the U.S. House voted to reduce the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - also called SNAP - by $40 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the cuts to SNAP take effect, 3.8 million people would lose their snap benefits in 2014, and others would see reductions. Fitzgerald worries about the potential impact on Second Harvest and its clients.
"We are already seeing a huge number - far beyond what we can serve," he said. "And our fear is if what was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week actually becomes law, even more people will be in dire need of food, and the safety net that's been helping in the rough patch their life will be gone, or greatly reduced."
Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-5th), who voted for the cuts, said in a statement that the reductions will help reduce waste and fraud in the program. Foxx pointed out that the program has doubled within the last five years. Fitzgerald said that's how the program is supposed to work.
"It's an elastic program and more people access when times are bad and they don't access it when times are better," he said. " One can look historically over the last 50 years or so, and the increase in cost of the program is directly related to bad economic times in this country, and certainly we've come through and still are coming through the worst economic times over the last eight decades."
The Senate is considering changes to SNAP that would be much smaller than the House version, trimming $4 billion from the program over ten years instead of $40 billion. Fitzgerald said Second Harvest distributes 25 tons of food per day, and that's still not enough to meet current demand.