The trickle down effect of cutbacks in federal government subsidies will be felt by more people during the upcoming holiday season, and especially hard hit are the needy families who depend on food programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
SNAP is a vital part of the overall economy. In Pennsylvania, 1.8 million people receive food stamps and SNAP reportedly pumps more than $2.7 billion into the state's economy annually.
As the national economy continues to struggle, more and more people are reliant on food stamps and food pantries. Last month, TIMES NEWS reporter Chris Parker showed how the cuts in SNAP would be impacting local food stamp recipients and food pantry programs. The article explained how Shepherd House, Carbon County's food pantry provider which operates nine food pantries, is experiencing rough times as grocery prices climb while food stamp allocations decline. A family of four receiving food stamps in Carbon County could expect $36 less in monthly benefits.
Blame the cutbacks on the sluggish economy. The economy grew at an annual rate of just 1.8 percent in the first half of 2013 and the job market has been stagnant since the recession hit in 2008.
Carbon County's unemployment rate in August was 8.7 percent, while Monroe County's was 9.7 percent, and Schuylkill's, 8.9 percent, far higher than the state unemployment rate of 7.7 percent and the national average of 7.2 percent.
Other areas are also having trouble supplying food pantries. It was encouraging to learn that Wegmans, the family-owned regional supermarket chain that has stores in Wilkes-Barre and the Lehigh Valley, coupled together with a radio station in central Pa. for a promotion that will benefit thousands during the holidays.
Wegmans agreed to donate one pound of food for every dollar WITF listeners donated to the FM public broadcasting station based in Harrisburg. The one-day promotion this month raised more than $20,000 for WITF, which Wegmans then matched with 20,000 pounds of food for the food bank.
The ten tons of food are expected to provide nearly 17,000 meals for needy families in the midstate region. This is actually the sixth year the station has linked with Wegmans for a matching campaign, which has led to more than 120,000 pounds of food donated to the food bank.
With so many food banks in troubled waters, it takes innovative, forward thinking like this to assure needy families have food for the holidays.
By Jim Zbick