One of the region’s largest food banks is bracing for higher demand after federal benefits were cut earlier this month to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Susan Ogborn, president of the Food Bank for the Heartland, says some 420-thousand Iowans receive SNAP benefits which have been trimmed back to 2009 levels. “When people can’t stretch their food stamps and their personal budgets out across the entire month, they use pantries as support,” Ogborn says.
SNAP benefits were increased by 13-percent about four years ago due to the recession. That extension was only temporary and now SNAP cash cards are being cut by about 11-dollars a month, per person. “What we believe is, they will use pantries more quickly and more often now as they notice the changes in their food stamp benefits.”
Statewide, the federal government is now sending about 43-million fewer dollars to Iowa for food assistance. Ogborn expects a serious strain on food banks. “That will be on top of the fact that October was our largest distribution month ever,” Ogborn says. “We are starting from a very high level of need and unfortunately, it looks as though it will be going higher.”
The Omaha-based Food Bank for the Heartland helps stock the shelves at 285 pantries, shelters and soup kitchens in Nebraska and western Iowa. In Iowa, about 13-percent of the population receives SNAP benefits.