Cuts in the federal SNAP program, more commonly known as food stamps, go into effect today. Lisa Hamler-Fugitt of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Food banks says food pantries are bracing for more Ohioans to come through their doors as a result. In an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles, Hamler-Fugitt explains why there won’t be enough food at food banks to meet the increased needs.
HAMLER-FUGITT: "We have already talked to a number of families that have heard that their benefits for November are going to be cut. I talked to a young woman this morning. Her name is Annie. She's received her notice. She is a single Mom with two kids. And her food stamps for October were $590 a month and her November benefits will be reduced to $495 -- a cut of more than $95 a month, which is more than three times the amount of a cut that we were told for a family of three. She has made it very clear that she was already turning to food pantries. She said, I will have to turn more frequently to turn more frequently to food pantries. It means that I won’t be able to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables for my kids. It means more days of hunger. What we are going to have is the working poor, those who aren't poor enough to qualify for the food stamp program, that will be now competing for fewer resources at our food banks and food pantry levels. We don’t have it. In fact, this cut totals over $193 million over the next 11 month and it would require our statewide network of 12 food banks and 3,300 member charities to double the amount of food they are currently distributing. And that’s not going to happen."
INGLES: "This has been turned into a political football. Do you agree and does that frustrate you?"
HAMLER-FUGITT: "It certainly does frustrate me and in fact, I was in Washington D.C. earlier this week, and I think that the rhetoric in this idea is that private charities will fill the gap and that individuals that are depending on the food stamp program are somehow not productive members of society. And I find that very very frustrating. Eighty-seven percent of all food stamp recipients in the state of Ohio are families with children. Forty percent of them work. They are seniors and people with disabilities. This is the first line of defense against hunger, and while Congress has brought our country to the verge of fiscal collapse, spending time pointing fingers at one another, voting 48 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they are not doing the people’s business. And at a time when we are allowing subsidies to go to million-dollar (agriculture) operations at the same time as asking our most vulnerable to make more sacrifices than they currently are, is mean spirited, it will not help our economy recover and it’s just plain wrong. It is immoral."
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks says some pantries in some parts of the state are already running out of food, leaving more people to go hungry in those areas.