Food banks: Federal cuts boosting food pantry need

MUSCATINE (AP) — Workers running the Salvation Army food pantry in Muscatine worry that already thinly stocked shelves soon will become bare because the government is cutting back funds for a food program for low income residents.

The USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cut the monthly check for a family of four by about $36 a month beginning Friday. The Salvation Army workers said they fear the cut will boost demand from food pantries.

“I’m most worried about our seniors and our children,” said Sissy Rogers, a Salvation Army caseworker. “They’re going to be the most hurt by all this.”

Muscatine residents and churches “continue to be very generous supplying us,” Rogers said. It’s just that certain types of food — boxes of macaroni and cheese and canned fruit — are flying off the shelves faster than volunteers can replenish them.

The shelves haven’t been so thin since 2006, the Muscatine Journal reported Saturday.

Even as she prepared to serve a free chili dog lunch on Friday, Capt. Kim Ray cited some of the statistics for the agency she runs together with her husband, Capt. Rick Ray: During 2012, the Muscatine Salvation Army filled 9,400 food orders, served 62,000 meals, gave out 592 food baskets during the Christmas season and presented Christmas gifts to 1,297 children.

“The need is out there,” Kim Ray said. “We are here to do what we can do. We can’t do everything, but we can do what we can do.”

SNAP recipients could face an even bigger challenge in the coming months as Congress considering competing versions of the Farm Bill. Under the Senate version, $4 billion will be cut from the program formerly known as food stamps during the next 10 years. The House of Representatives version cuts 10 times that amount.

“I have five grandchildren who will be affected. I think it’s wrong,” said Betty Fankhauser, 57, of Muscatine, who was ready Friday morning to enjoy the meal and serve as a volunteer greeter. “There have to be other ways to cut back than hurting people who depend on this program.”

Fankhauser says she plans to help her grandchildren by diverting some of her disability check to her children.