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December 28, 2013

SNAP cuts taking toll on food pantry supplies

(Continued)

Each reduction varies according to the number of people per household. A six-person household, for instance, has been hit with a cut of $53 per month, while a one-person home will notice an $11 decrease in monthly benefits.

“We exist because food stamps exist,” said Alyse Barbash, executive director at Haven from Hunger in Peabody. “If all of these food stamps are taken away over the next few years, then on a normal day, where I have 120 people lined up outside, I won’t be able to fill the need and my doors will close.”

Barbash said they need the food stamps, because her organization is just a supplement.

“I can’t give enough food to a family of four or five for two weeks,” she said.

McDonald feels these same burdens at Beverly Bootstraps.

“We already have families of four and five staying on with us rather than tapering off like they usually do,” said McDonald. “They have new burdens, and we’ve become part of a family’s plan to get through the tough parts of the month.”

In September, Beverly Bootstraps served 479 households and 1,156 individuals. They distributed 1,989 bags, which equals about 79,560 pounds of food. Only a month later, those numbers rose to 512 family homes, 1,271 individuals, 736 new visitors — the highest number tracked from July to October — and 2,208 circulated bags. McDonald expects these numbers to grow in the coming months as clients adjust to the declining benefits.

The SNAP cuts have happened and they’re real,” said Heather Johnston, director of donor relations at Beverly Bootstraps. “But there is the potential for families and individuals to suffer even further if the farm bill is passed. It is being proposed right now, and we won’t know this until January.”

LaFontaine noted that, even at their peaks, projects like The Open Door and others cannot be expected to meet the full force of the area’s growing needs.

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