Food sits on Plainville's food pantry. | (Photo by Erin K. Butler)
November 19, 2013 01:38PM
By Daniel Jackson
Special to the Record-Journal
Despite the federal cuts in the food stamp program, local food banks say they have not yet seen an increase in demand.
The Department of Social Services says nearly 225,000 Connecticut households saw a reduction in their food stamp benefits beginning Nov. 1. On average, households will see a drop of about $17 in November. DSS said that the specific benefit reduction will depend on several factors, including household size, income and expenses.
Benefits provided under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP , are dropping because a temporary benefit boost from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is expiring. The cuts to the federal government’s largest anti-hunger program come a month after recipients received a cost-of-living increase.
Area social service coordinators said this is the most difficult time of the year to measure increased demand because they are gearing up for holiday food and gift programs, which typically draw more participants than other year-round programs.
Dan Riccio, Jr., welfare administrator at Community Services in North Haven, said he has not seen an increase in services so far this month.
“It hasn’t really filtered down to us yet,” he said.
North Haven’s town food pantry works in conjunction with a food pantry run out of the North Haven Congregational Church. The vast majority of the food in the pantry comes from donation, Riccio said.
“Thank God for the people in this town,” he said. “They are very generous.”
On average, the pantry helps 18 to 25 people a month. He is not worried about the cuts because the pantry has never run out of food and because it stopped being a part of the state’s SNAP program since March.
Riccio said the state food bank recently downsized and decided to consolidate its efforts to food banks that were running out of food, like in New Haven or Hamden.
Amanda Pedersen, social services coordinator for Durham, expects to see more people calling her asking for assistance in other areas because of the SNAP cuts. In response to the cuts, a family on SNAP may shift their budget and devote more resources to food, and then call the town needing assistance with, say, oil.
Until a month ago, she kept food for families in need in a space in her office but then she thought “I need to make it bigger.” Working with the Durham Agricultural Fair Association, she opened a pantry on the Durham Fair Grounds. Now, Pedersen has shelves full of health and beauty supplies, pet food, toiletries, peanut butter and pasta. So far, only six people have come to the pantry.
The cuts may affect some Durham residents, but it’s early in the month.
“It’s hard for me to judge how many people will come forward and ask,” she said.
She does see an increase in holiday requests from last year, though.
Doug Truitt, assistant community services director for Berlin, said the town helps about 60 people a month through its food bank. The residents in need of help can come about once a month and can get food from what has been donated. Currently, the town’s food pantry is running low. However, he says food comes into the pantry in bunches.
During the holidays, he expects to help 200 to 250 households.
Truitt won’t be able to gauge the effect of SNAP cuts until next year, after the holidays. Even then, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to make the direct connection to that,” he said.
If the need for the community’s food bank increases, Truitt said he can’t do anything about it. He doesn’t have the staff or resources.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.