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November 8, 2013

Food pantries feeling the pinch

CLINTON — For the first time in more than a decade, Vicki Clark might have to use a food pantry.

The 53-year-old Clinton resident received $60 less in food stamps this month to feed herself and her son, the result of a boost to the food program for low income residents from the 2009 federal stimulus expiring.

"There's no way I can live on $140 a month," Clark said.

The USDA's Supplemental Nutrion Assistance Program was cut by about $36 a month for the average family of four, sending many residents to area food banks with already bare shelves.

In October, 215 families sought food from the Associate Benevolent Society and the Salvation Army, an 11 percent increase from September, according to Information, Referral and Assistance Executive Director Regan Michaelsen.

"We have definitely had more people requesting food. We think people are just in a panic," Michaelsen said.

Associate Benevolent Society Executive Director Paula Mallory has seen the need to grow exponentially in her time at the organization.

Last month, the Benevolent Society provided food to 98 families, more than three times the amount they served when Mallory started 10 years ago.

The amount of people using the area food pantries that also use food stamps has increased by nearly 100 percent in the same time period with 90 percent of the families receiving or applying for food stamps. Cuts to the SNAP program only compound the organization's struggle to keep shelves stocked.

"With pretty close to all the food pantries we do the people are in the process of applying for food stamps or are using food stamps." Mallory said. "A lot of our people work, they just can't make ends meet. People are making more trips to the food bank and we try to help as much as we can, but I'm still nervous. It's shocking to go from 30 food pantries, to 60 and to 90. It makes a big difference."

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