WMDT 47 NEWS – It's been two weeks since Congress finally approved a farm bill, which includes covering the nation's food stamp program, and cutting the overall costs by one percent a year as a compromise.
While the cuts are not as bad as they could have been, food pantries across Delmarva who are already in the thick of the fight to feed hungry mouths, are not relieved
"Where's the food going to come to meet the increased demand," says Jennifer Small, branch manager for the Maryland Food Bank of the Eastern Shore. "Statewide and nationally, that is the biggest concern."
According to the Maryland Food Bank of the Eastern Shore, they are distributing more than 167,000 pounds of food than this time last year. Since the food stamp program first saw a cut in November 2013, they say they have seen an increase in need by about 50 to 60 percent. Now, they are struggling to feed those who lost benefits in addition to those who do not qualify for the benefits, but are still going hungry.
"Those individuals are no longer what we used to think are the homeless individuals, this is the working poor, the individuals who are struggling to make ends meet because they've been laid off," says Small. "Take that, take that additional snap cuts, put it all together and we're going to see an influx of need."
However, it is not just the food banks seeing the influx. Diakonia, a facility in Ocean City that provides a food pantry, shelter, clothing, and other resources for Worcester County, says the demand is huge.
"We've just seen a consistent demand for services," says Claudia Nagle, executive director of Diakonia. "We really saw a huge bump in terms of the number of people coming and asking for assistance in our food pantry, and that hasn't stopped."
"This year for the first time in my memory we had a line here, I've never seen that before," says Tom Wilson, President of the board at Diakonia. "We try to do what we can but our facilities here are limited, we only have so much space."
In the upcoming months, food pantry officials say they do not see the numbers letting up, but only growing.
"We know that we will see an increase, a consistency of people going to the good pantry for assistance to be able to meet those need," says Nagle. "When you look at the cost of food it's not going down, when you go to the grocery store it's very expensive."
Now, they are seeking any help from the community they can.
"We can't do what we do without community support," says Small. "We need to be able to meet that need."
Food pantry officials say some of the biggest ways the community can help is through volunteering, or helping to host a food drive. They say any food or monetary donations also go a very long way. For more information on how you can help the Maryland Food Bank of the Eastern Shore, call 410-742-0050 or visit their website. For more information on how you can help Diakonia, call 410-213-0923, or visit their website.
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