MILLEDGEVILLE — Milledgeville resident Cheryl Williams stopped by the local soup kitchen Tuesday to receive a hot meal just as she does every week. Since losing her job at the Bill Ireland Youth Development Center in 2009, the 42-year-old has struggled to keep food on the table, and now finds it even more difficult after her monthly benefits for food stamps were reduced.
“After my job closed, I’ve been disabled ever since. My food stamps affect me because I’m diabetic so I have to make sure I [get the right foods],” she said. “This is the only income I get, so this money is very important to me.”
Like Williams, 47.7 million food stamp recipients in the country saw a reduction in their monthly benefits effective Nov. 1 due to the end of the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost in funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The impact varies for each recipient depending upon household size and income. On average, Georgia families receiving SNAP experienced a 5 percent change in their monthly allotment.
“Before the reduction I was getting $200, and now I’m getting $186. With my stuff being so high, I have to budget it to make it to the next month. My dad has to help out sometimes because I just don’t have enough; I thank God for him,” Williams said. “My heart goes out to people with kids; it’s depressing.”
Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014. The total size of the cut will be approximately $5 billion in fiscal year 2014.
Cafe Central Director Anne Bowen said she has seen the importance of the SNAP benefits to local individuals since opening the soup kitchen in 2009. Cafe Central serves up to 300 individuals with a free meal every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Freedom Church.
“The amount of food stamps people were given before they got cut weren’t enough. I can’t believe it,” Bowen said. “You can tell by looking at so many of the people that come [to Cafe Central] that they can’t take care of themselves. These people need it and having their food stamps cut the way they’ve been cut is tragic. These people are hungry; it’s sad.”
According to the Department of Human Services, an average of 1.9 million Georgians received food stamps each month in fiscal year 2013.
“I’m not working and it’s hard for me to get a job. A lot of times I run out of money by the end of the month because the cost of food is so high,” said Linda Smith, 57. “I wish they could put it back the way it was. It’s so hard for us to survive like this.”
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