Food Stamps and Food Pantries

The federal SNAP program helps nearly 47 million Americans put food on the table.

I met one of them today.

She was waiting in line at a food pantry in Albuquerque.  The neighborhood she lives in has always been on the down side of socio economic wellbeing, but these days, it’s really been hit hard.  Her husband was at work, and she was excited because he gets paid on the first of the month.  Since June first falls on a Saturday, the company will pay him on Friday.  The early paycheck will help.

They moved to Albuquerque from another state.  I’m judging by her warm, gentle drawl that they’re originally from Oklahoma or East Texas.

“I’ve never seen a state that takes care of people like New Mexico,” she said.  Between a once a month visit to the neighborhood food pantry and her SNAP benefits, she said her family stays fed.

“It’s never enough, but we can get by.  We used to get more from food stamps, but it keeps getting lower and lower,” she explained.

As her husband worked more hours, earning more pay, they qualify for less and less SNAP benefits.  That’s the way the Supplemental Food Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps works.  As your ‘relative need’ for assistance decreases, so does the amount placed on your SNAP EBT card.  It’s a hand up, not a hand out as our politicians love to say.

I’m sure the increase in her husband’s pay cannot keep pace with the cuts to her benefits.  And, if she can find a job in this economy, her check would barely cover day care for their children.  It’s a tough spot that many working people find themselves in these days.

But this afternoon, she seemed happy.  She smiled as she left the food pantry.  She had a couple of sacks of groceries to take home to her husband and kids. Today she would be getting by.

Jason Riggs is the SNAP Outreach Coordinator at Roadrunner Food Bank.

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