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Farm Bill Could Cut Money For Food Stamps

June 12, 2012, 5:04 PM by David Brown

Farm Bill Could Cut Money For Food Stamps

Imagine having your food budget cut by a third. It could happen to a half million American families if the current farm bill moves forward in Washington.

The legislation would cut $4.5 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, over the next ten years. For some households that could mean $90 less in food stamps per month.

More than 94,000 South Dakotans receive help paying for food, and that's nearly twice as many people as just five years ago.  And to give you some perspective that's more than one in ten South Dakotans. In that same time, the amount of help has jumped $70 per month. So, if the farm bill passes, a lot of families could be set back more than five years.

"It feels like they're trying to get rid of us," Sioux Falls resident and food stamp user Galen Oas said.

Oas has been using food stamps for four years. He's been in and out of work during that time and says the potential cut in the Farm Bill has him worried.

"SNAP program is very important to me because I need to eat," Oas said. "And how about the other people that need to eat too, like little kids?"

Oas receives around $200 per month, but says more than half of it is usually spent on just one trip to the grocery store.

"Sometimes, it's just a sandwich and chips," Oas said. "It's not a hot meal because food has gotten so pricey."

"Congress should form a circle of protection around the programs that meet basic needs of low income people when times are tough. And food stamps would be in there,"  Bread For The World volunteer Carol Brechtelsbauer said.

Using a loaf of bread as a metaphor for how more and more individuals are taking slices, volunteers gathered at Drake Springs Pool in Sioux Falls to showcase the continued need for food stamps.

"63 percent of the clients who come through the food pantry last month are on food stamps or receiving food stamps," Sioux Falls food pantry general manager Steven Dahlmeier said.

Local organizations are being stretched thin and Dahlmeier is concerned they could be stretched even further. And for people who use food stamps as a means to survive, they hope their hunger speaks volumes to Congress.

"We're human beings," Oas said. "We need food to survive and keep energy. That (potential government cut) scares me."

The farm bill still has a long way to go and there has been an amendment to remove the food stamps cuts. Even if that passes, the House of Representatives then has to formulate its own farm bill. Nevertheless, Dahlmeier says the Food Pantry is preparing for the worst in order to continue providing to those who are hungry.

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