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Friday September 19th 2014

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Food stamp cut coming, food banks have to pick up influx

June-6-cover
By Stephanie Carroll Carson, Florida News Connection

About 2.6 million people in Florida will have less money to spend on groceries starting this November. SNAP benefits – more commonly known as food stamps – are decreasing and will leave people with $1.40 to spend per meal.

The funding reduction comes as a result of the expiration of Recovery Act funding, and food banks are bracing for the impact. Rebecca Brislain, spokeswoman for the Florida Association of Food Banks, said the need for assistance does not end with the expiration of funding and her organizations can’t bridge that gap.

“That’s just the truth of it,” she said. “We simply can’t absorb those kinds of cuts. The people that are receiving assistance will not be able to find the kind of assistance that they’re receiving through those programs.”

Brislain says her 14 member food banks already are struggling to meet increased needs from people that came as a result of the recession. Five years ago they distributed 72 million pounds of food each year. Since then, that number has more than doubled.

Florida food banks have been distributing food at “disaster levels” in the past three years, she said, with increases of 80 percent in some parts of the state.

“It’s what we’ve been here for for years,” she said, “and now we’re finding so many more people. It’s not that little emergency anymore. It’s become a chronic problem.”

About 17 percent of Florida’s population is classified as “food insecure,” but 28 percent of children deal with food insecurity.