MARYLAND - The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as "food stamps," provides a vital supplement to the monthly food budget for more than 790,000 low-income Marylanders. However, all of that may be at risk.
Starting November 1st, the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009, which Congress used to provide a temporary increase in SNAP benefits, will expire. The Maryland Food Bank estimates that this would cause $82 million in food stamp reductions over the next year. On average, a family of our will lose about $36 per month from their maximum benefit.
"The cuts are serious," says Alicia Robinson, Planning Coordinator for Self-Help On Rural Economics and Urban Problems (SHORE UP!) Inc. in Salisbury. Robinson says they serve about 14,000 people on the Eastern Shore, and at least 32% use food stamps.
However, the cuts coming in November are minimal compared to what the House is considering this week. The potential bill would cut food stamps by around four billion dollars over the next ten years. The vote comes after the House defeated a wide-ranging farm bill in June, which proposed two billion dollars a year in cuts, because many conservatives believed the cuts were not high enough. If this bill passes, it could leave local services, like the Food Bank of the Eastern Shore, scrambling to provide 570,000 extra pounds of food per year.
"This would just be devastating to so many," says Yvonne Terry, director of development for the Maryland Food Bank of the Eastern Shore. "It would be really, really hard for us."
Currently, the Food Bank serves about 38,000 families on the Eastern Shore, and almost half of those people are on food stamps as well. While the bill being discussed this week is just a proposal, food bank officials say they the food and money collection needs to happen now.
"We would need the entire community to come together to help us," says Terry.
All of the Food Bank services across America are promoting September as "Hunger Action Month," to give the public a voice about what hunger *means* on the Eastern Shore. For more information on the campaign, and how you can help visit their website. For more information on the SHORE UP! programs, visit their website.
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