Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
PITTSBURGH – Now that the Thanksgiving spread has been cleared in homes and soup kitchens around the state, what's next for Pennsylvanians who face food insecurity on a daily basis?
The concern now runs deeper in the wake of this month's reductions in food stamp or SNAP benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Ken Regal is executive director of Just Harvest, a group dedicated to fighting hunger in and around Pittsburgh.
"It's easy for us to be mindful about our neighbors' lack of food at the holidays,” he says. “But these cuts are going to be true in December, in January, in February, in March, and on and on."
Regal notes it's a critical time for SNAP. The Congressional Conference Committee is weighing relatively modest cuts to food stamps in the Senate version of the Farm Bill, against unprecedented cuts being proposed in the House.
Benefits amounts were cut because a temporary increase enacted during the recession expired.
Regal says many Pennsylvanians who suffered most in that time period still haven't recovered – and now, that additional benefit amount they've relied on has disappeared.
"It's cold comfort to somebody who might have just started receiving food stamps in July, to tell them, 'Oh, this isn't really a cut, it's just an expiration of an increase in benefits from 2009,'" he points out.
Regal says the SNAP reductions that kicked in Nov. 1 are costing a family of four in Pennsylvania roughly $36 less a month in benefits.
The USDA estimates that's enough to feed one of those family members for about a week.