SNAP reduction already impacting area food pantries

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–Nearly two weeks into the 5.5 percent reduction in SNAP benefits, area food pantries said there are early signs  that families in central Virginia have felt the impact.

There are more than 100,000 people in Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield who rely on SNAP benefits to buy food.

The change in SNAP, which used to be called Food Stamps, happened Nov 1.

The reason? Stimulus money used to increase SNAP payments several years ago is now going away.

“The April 2009 increase in SNAP benefits resulting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Stimulus Package) will expire based on federal legislation that allowed the provision to sunset,” explained director of Benefit Programs, Thomas Steinhauser. “For a family of four receiving the maximum benefit, the cut will be $36 per month.  For many households this cut will be significant.”

The Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS) said most households will see a 5.6 percent decrease in their SNAP allotments.

The number of people using food pantries to supplement their SNAP benefits has skyrocketed over the past year, according to area food pantries.

“If this continues, our budget for the year is going to be blown,” said Lincoln Sparks, from the St. Thomas Food Pantry in Richmond.

Between October 2012 and October 2013, the number of households that received food from St. Thomas, Ginter Park United Methodist, and the William Byrd Community House nearly tripled.

According to numbers collected by CBS 6 from all three pantries, 222 families received help in October 2012, compared to 630 families in October of 2013.

“The question becomes…when we’re out of the budget what do we do?” said Sparks.

The October numbers were compiled right before the SNAP benefit reduction took effect on November 1st, but Sparks said in just one week this month, 92 households showed up looking for help.

In October, the church averaged 60 families per week.

“We were swamped,” said Sparks.

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