Thanks to the expiration of emergency funding for the nation’s food stamp program enacted as part of the federal stimulus package passed in 2009, food pantries are bracing for a spike in demand for their services from already vulnerable individuals and families, National Public Radio reports.

The 5 percent reduction in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — the formal name of the food stamp program — means that a family of four receiving assistance through the program will see that assistance fall from $668 a month to $632, or only $1.40 per meal per person, starting November 1.

The cuts “will be close to catastrophic for many people,” Ross Fraser, a spokesman for Feeding America, told CBS MoneyWatch. Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the country, estimates that the reduction in funding for the program will result in the loss of nearly two billion meals for poor families in 2014. Rebecca Brislain, executive director of the Florida Association of Food Banks, said the cuts will be “a significant hit for families; we already know SNAP doesn’t last the whole month.”

The number of people receiving assistance through SNAP has increased by nearly 21 million since 2008, while the cost of the program has doubled, to $80 billion. Yet many in Congress are looking to cut funding for the program even further, NPR reports. The Republican-controlled House, for instance, has voted to cut an additional $40 billion from the program over the next decade and is calling for a tightening of its eligibility requirements. According to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the legislation, if enacted, would eliminate assistance for nearly four million of the poorest Americans. “This cut in benefits is precisely the opposite course our nation should be taking to help struggling children and their families right now,” said the foundation’s president and CEO, Sterling K. Speirn. “Our road to economic recovery is long, and we must ensure that everyone has access to good food. Indeed, healthy families are good for the economy.”

Moreover, at a time when record numbers of people need government assistance to put food on the table, charities cannot fill the gap that deeper cuts would create, Kate Maehr, CEO and executive director of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, told NPR. “Food pantries and soup kitchens all across this community are already stretched,” said Maehr.”It’s getting more and more difficult for us to find quality food to distribute to food pantries and soup kitchens.”

Posted By: Marla Thompson


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