By Lauren Wanko
Volunteers and staffers at the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties are bracing for an influx of hungry people.That’s because today recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, are seeing their benefits reduced.
“We’ve been dealing with disaster after disaster. First the economic recession, then the superstorm last year, now quite frankly, this is the disaster on our heels,” said FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties Executive Director Carlos Rodriguez.
A 2009 law temporarily increased SNAP benefit amounts to help Americans struggling during the recession. In the Garden State, more than 433,000 households receive NJ SNAP benefits. The decrease depends primarily on the size of the household. A family of four will see $36 less a month.
“Statewide the estimated loss is about $90 million in real benefits to real families in need,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriquez insists a decrease in SNAP benefits translates into a decrease in economic activity.
“For every $5 someone receives in food stamps, it actually generates about $9 in economic activities. So that’s economic activity that we sorely need but are not going to have,” he said.
The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties is constantly receiving donations, but they’re turning around food faster then ever before in their 30-year history. The food bank distributes to more than 250 emergency food programs in both counties.
Pantries and soup kitchens are already seeing increased demand, Rodriguez says because SNAP benefits typically last about three weeks.
“The reality is, they’re coming to our pantries to make up that gap, to make sure they have food for the entire month,” Rodriguez said.
Volunteer Harmon Willey has never seen food fly off the shelves so quickly. He worries how the SNAP reduction will impact families most in need.
“You feel bad because you know some of these people will not get food they need and some of the children will go without and that’s very upsetting,” Willey said.
About 90,000 Monmouth and Ocean County residents receive SNAP benefits. About half of those recipients are children. Rodriguez says the food bank welcomes donations. Still those donations won’t be enough to fill the void.
“Let’s just be clear, there’s no way that any food bank can make up for the $90 million gap across the state or anywhere else in the country,” Rodriguez said.
And with the holiday season quickly approaching, Rodriguez insists his food bank and o