Essential Pittsburgh
4:08 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Local Impact of Budget Cuts to Supplemental Food Programs

Holidays are a dire time for local food banks.
Credit Ian Britton / flickr

SNAP Loses Funding for the Poor

Last month, for the first time in its history, cuts were made across America to the food-stamp program known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

Pennsylvania's program has lost $183 million; for families and food banks, the impact can be felt most around the holidays.

Catherine Buhrig, Division Director in the Bureau of Policy for the PA Department of Public Welfare and Ken Regal, executive director of Just Harvest, educate people and help them apply for SNAP benefits. 

Buhrig sees firsthand the significance of these cuts to those families that live under the poverty line. 

“I think for an individual who is low income, to lose $11 a month based on the income that they have, that it is an impact to them and to their budget and how they need to manage their money and how they’re going to put food on the table.” 

SNAP Cuts & Food Banks During the Holidays

The Holiday season, and the cuts to SNAP have triggered an increased need for donations to local food banks.

Lisa Scales is Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and is working hard this season with the food bank to meet the needs of an increasing number of families.

Jay Poliziani works as Director of Northside Common Ministries, where the food pantry is benefiting from the Pittsburgh Foundation's Year End Match Program.

Poliziani finds that many of the individuals that have once contributed to the food bank are now unable to give and in some cases are now on the receiving end of the contributions. Scales sees fighting hunger as a necessity in Southwestern Pennsylvania and describes the startling realities of those who use SNAP.

“We’re cutting the benefits of our most vulnerable citizens," she says. "Three quarters of the people who receive SNAP benefits are parents of young children, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Over 80% of the people who receive SNAP live at or below 100% of poverty. To put that in perspective, for a family of three that’s less than $20,000 a year.”