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Food Pantries Gather to Discuss Possible Impact of SNAP Cuts

Meeting on Impact of SNAP Cuts
Meeting on Impact of SNAP Cuts (Credit: Michele Skalicky)

SNAP--the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—formerly known as food stamps, is estimated to help 16 percent of people who live in Greene County.  The cuts that took effect Friday will leave a family of four with $36 less per month to spend on food.  And food pantries in the county are bracing for a larger number of people coming to them for help.

City Manager Greg Burris says he didn’t want to wait for more potential federal cuts to SNAP to happen before meeting to address how the area will continue to help what he calls “our most vulnerable citizens.”

During a meeting at Council of Churches, Burris painted a picture of just how many people in the county rely on SNAP for food assistance.

"I think that's about the equivalent of filling up MSU's Plaster Stadium three times," he said.

Food pantries are already seeing increases over last year in the number of people they serve.  Mark Struckhoff, executive director of Council of Churches of the Ozarks, which runs Crosslines, says in 2012, the organization served 96 people on an average day.  Today, it serves approximately 141 per day.  He says they anticipated an increase due to the economy and the Kitchen food pantry closing.  But they’re having trouble financially keeping up with the demand.

"So far this year, just in terms of the food expense, we're in the hole about $30,000," he said.

Several other food pantries say they, too, are operating in the red.  And most are still waiting to see the impact the SNAP cuts will have on them. 

David Jane is with Central Assembly.  He says they’ll see this weekend when they open up their food pantry for the first time since the SNAP cuts were made the impact those cuts might have.

"If I were to say we're not concerned I'd be lying, but we will know that better after Saturday.  That is our distribution day for the month of November, and we are set.  We are expecting an increase, and we are expecting to see a few more people that we have not seen before," he said.

Jane says he’d like to see more meetings like the one held today that will end with results. 

Some suggestions made during the meeting were to educate the public about who the food pantries serve—children, the disabled and the elderly and to create more community gardens.

City Manager Greg Burris offered help to the pantries in getting their stories told. 

Appropriately, the meeting concluded with an impromptu short speech by someone who has been helped by food pantries and is starting to get back on her feet.

Andrea Bellevue Mathis, who happened to stop by Council of Churches of the Ozarks as the meeting was concluding to seek help with laundry expenses, asked to speak to the group.  She told attendees she’d been at Safe to Sleep since September 26th, but as of November 1st, got her own home.  She expressed her appreciation for all of the groups that helped her along the way.

For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.