Food Needs Growing After November Assistance Cuts
Major Abe Tamayo says about 25 people come to the Hastings Salvation Army every week looking for food, clothing, and utility help.
But lately they've been seeing a nearly 50 percent increase in numbers, something that can quickly clean out their food pantry.
"We work in cooperation with the Hastings Food Pantry. We call in the orders, but once that quota is filled there are still gaps that we're experiencing and we're seeing that more towards the end of the month, so I anticipate next month we'll see a greater increase all the more," says Tamayo.
The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act had increased some food stamp benefits, but the program ran out November 1, 2013. Tamayo says that reduction to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program had a definite local impact.
"We're seeing a serious increase now and are anticipating a greater increase as that food stamp trickle down reduction really starts hitting households in our area," he says.
Tamayo says food donations are needed year-round, but utility help often spikes during cold months.
One area homeless shelter says they are seeing the same needs.
"Most of the time when bills go up, we do see more people coming in because they can't afford to stay where they're at," says Jerry Bumgardner, director of Crossroads Center Rescue Mission.
The center also relies on food donations for the meals they prepare, and say working with the community and other anti-hunger groups is the only way to help the most people.
"When we have an over-abundance, we pass it on, so we just want to keep that networking going and just say kudos to the public. We just love what you're doing and it allows us to do what we love doing, and that's taking care of those who don't have anything," says Bumgardner.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says they're waiting for information from the USDA, but expect SNAP changes from the 2014 Farm Bill to be mostly administrative. They say Nebraska did not participate in some of the programs that were cut the most.
Around 180,000 Nebraskans participate in the food stamp program.