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Less money for food

Hundreds of Peninsula residents to receive less help from food stamps

Posted: October 30, 2013 - 9:33pm
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Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion  Harry Moore watches as Bill Lofgren moves a pallet of food Wednesday October 30, 2013 at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank in Soldotna, Alaska.
Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Harry Moore watches as Bill Lofgren moves a pallet of food Wednesday October 30, 2013 at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank in Soldotna, Alaska.

Worried phone calls started coming into the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank in September. People heard that food stamps were going to be cut and some worried about an already tenuous supply of food for their tables.

Starting Friday, hundreds on the Peninsula will see less aid from the federal government to help cover the growing costs of buying food through benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, historically known as food stamps.

“My food stamps are being cut, I don’t know what I’m going to do,’” is the mantra that Food Bank Executive Director Linda Swarner said she heard from those who called.

According to the Food Bank of Alaska, monthly benefits across the state will drop by anywhere from $13 to $65 per month depending on household size and geographic location.

In essence, the reduction takes the average federal contribution to a recipient’s meal from $1.50 to $1.40.

“It’s roughly 5 percent,” said Director of the Alaska Division of Public Assistance Ron Kreher. His department sent out “heads up” letters to everyone in the state receiving SNAP benefits.

The so-called cuts result from the end of a temporary benefit increase in the SNAP program that came with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by Congress in 2009. Congress last summer decided to let the increase expire on Nov. 1.

According to the USDA, the consumer price index for all food rose by 1.4 percent from July 2012 to June 2013. Costs have risen annually by 2 percent or more since 2011.

Aside from informing recipients of the reduction in benefits, it’s largely business as usual for Krener’s department. Those who call for help will get referred to community resources for additional nutritional help.

“We cannot give more benefits,” Kreher said.

With no additional money to aid those in need of fully balanced meals, Kreher and Swarner say that area emergency food pantries and meal programs are going to have to make up the difference.

Swarner asked the scores of partner agencies around the borough to plan for more calls for assistance. Already the food bank distributes 500,000 pounds of food from two USDA programs and two food bank programs with an additional 500,000 pounds of food donated from local grocery stores and food distributors, she said.

The food bank serves about 524 Peninsula residents who receive SNAP benefits.

“(They need) to be prepared for more people seeking more help,” she said of local churches and the Salvation Army “We live in a very giving and caring community.”

Along with SNAP, families can get one USDA commodities box each month. This month that box contains, for a family of between two and four people, one box of powdered mashed potatoes, two pounds of rice, one can each of refried beans, sliced peaches, sliced potatoes, vegetarian beans, sliced carrots and one whole chicken. There is also a smattering of milk, some fish and lunch meats to distribute.

Food stamps were never meant to be the main source of nutrition for people receiving them, Kreher said.

According to Map the Meal Gap, a perspective-building program from the nation’s largest hunger-relief charity Feeding America, the average cost of a meal on the Kenai Peninsula is $3.82. That average price leaves SNAP recipients responsible for $2.42 for their share of every nutritional meal they prepare and eat.

Its takes about 1.5 pounds of food per meal to feed a person, Swarner said. The 10-cent reduction in benefits will likely be made up in low cost carbohydrate-rich foods.

Salvation Army Envoy Craig Fanning said that most of the people his organization helps feed in the Central Peninsula with the USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program don’t prepare balanced meals to begin with, largely because of costs. They eat Top Ramen and extra macaroni and cheese, the cheap stuff that will fill up a family and doesn’t equal a good meal, he said.

“Cost cuts are in vegetables and fresh foods,” Fanning said.

The number of people Fanning’s organization helps each month with services varies from about 75 on the low end to 200 on the higher end. About 80 percent of those get some form of food aid. While he doesn’t expect the number of those in need to increase with SNAP reductions, he is prepared to increase the per individual help if necessary.

“We buy food on a regular basis,” Fanning said. “If we need to buy more food we will.”

To try and combat bad nutrition resulting from stretched food dollars, the food bank will prepare the healthiest food possible at their Fireweed Diner on Kalifornsky Beach Road, which serves a lunch meal daily to anyone who stops in. They may also run nutrition classes.

According to Map the Meal Gap, 13.2 percent of the population on Peninsula faces food insecurity. According to the USDA website, food insecurity is categorized at two levels, low security and very low security. Those are respectively defined as “reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet with little or no indication of reduced food intake” and “reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.”

Jon Watson, pastor at Peninsula Christian Center, has seen diners at his Wednesday Night Meal double from 20 to 40 kids during the last six months. The meal is largely for kids and teens, but anyone is welcome he said.

“I don’t know that any of them are starving,” Watson said. “Many are from modest or impoverished homes.”

His Soldotna church is growing and the increase in diners at the Wednesday meal could be as much from that as growing food insecurities for local residents. To help contribute to those in need that do not attend his church, his congregation donates money from tithing to the food bank. Additionally, when one of his parishioners is in need of supplemental food, the church takes them over to the food bank and then pays for what they get.

“Someone has to pay for it,” Watson said. “This way we’re not a burden on the bank.”

Another way to look and the loss of supplemental food aid is in annual benefits on the Peninsula, which will be reduced by a minimum of $156 for a single person and $504 for a household of four in the borough on the east side of Cook Inlet; $240 for a single person and $780 for a family of four on the west side of the inlet.

Alaska differs in its benefit scales compared to the Lower 48; it has higher allotment rates, which are based on geographic location, Kreher said. The same basic income and expense qualifications in Soldotna and a distant village will draw different benefit amounts because of food transportation costs, he said.

With the temporary benefit increase expiring tomorrow, Congress on Wednesday began crafting a compromise to the next farm bill, which includes the possibility of additional cuts to the SNAP program.

Current farm and food stamp spending is around $97 billion a year, with about 80 percent of that money going to SNAP. The Senate bill would save about $1.8 billion a year, while the House bill would save around $5.2 billion a year.

The Senate farm bill would cut about $400 million from the almost $80 billion annual total by targeting states that give people very small amounts of heating assistance so they can automatically qualify for higher SNAP benefits. The House bill would cut $4 billion yearly by making similar changes and eliminating “broad-based categorical eligibility,” or automatic SNAP benefits when people are signed up for certain other programs. The House bill would also allow states to create new work requirements and end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults without dependents to receive SNAP indefinitely.

Senate Democrats have opposed all of those major changes to the program.

According to Kreher, the additional cuts, if approved, will not largely impact Alaskans because the state has not implemented broad-based eligibility or connected SNAP eligibility to heating assistance. However, the state has been giving SNAP benefits to able-bodied adults without dependents and that would end.

“We’ve been very conservative in appropriations,” he said.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

Reach Greg Skinner at greg.skinner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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wilsonro
100
Points
wilsonro 10/31/13 - 07:59 am
2
2
Work

Get a Job!!!!!!!

msjinxie
131
Points
msjinxie 10/31/13 - 09:18 pm
2
4
Free ride is OVER

Awww Im sorry that your free food is no longer able to be paid for by the ones who actually work for a living!! Boo Hoo I agree get a JOB like the rest of the adult world, were sick of watching you feed your family McDonalds on the States dime!! Learn to budget your food, Buy a dam freezer and stock up on meat, bread, milk and anything else that can be frozen. Cook from scratch and actually do something for your family. This whole generation has no clue how to even take care of themselves because they were never taught. Its not the Current working Alaskans jobs to provide better meals for you. Enough is enough. No sympathy. This is what you get for depending on the Government for a hand out. When the well runs dry, you get cut off. Sink or swim.

beautiful lightning
25
Points
beautiful lightning 11/01/13 - 01:26 am
2
0
The human condition

It's a shame that as food prices continue to climb this country decides to cut assistance in an area so basic to the human need.

rwhobby
196
Points
rwhobby 11/01/13 - 07:04 am
2
3
Get a job

I know there is some people who did need some help, but there is a lot if people on food stamps who have been eating like kings. I see it every month getting steaks, seafood, junk food, and let's not forget about cigarettes and alcohol. Get a job I'm tired of paying for your lazy ass!

RaySouthwell
1054
Points
RaySouthwell 11/01/13 - 10:09 am
2
0
Facts of life

My father was a youngster during the great depression. He once told my mother he would do whatever it took to feed his family. His children would not go hungry. What will parents do when their children start to go hungry? Easy answer-get a job. I have a family member who has a masters degree in Human Resources. They lost their job. They finally found work, part time as a dog washer at Pet-Co. We need to start a discussion on why our economic system has failed. It is not because of laziness.

DeborahRose
15
Points
DeborahRose 11/02/13 - 10:41 am
3
1
Helping People

All of these hateful comments makes me sad. Of course there are going to be those that abuse the program, but most of the time, some people just need help. Food stamps is not supposed to be their only source of feeding their family and most people that get food stamps do work, but minimum wage or even $15-$20 an hour sometimes isn't enough to support entire families. What about the hard worker that got hurt on the job and got screwed over on workmans comp? What about the single parent who's life plan didn't work out perfectly as planned, or a disable individual who simply can't work? The cost of living is ridiculous and I have a great job and don't require assistance.. But between my vehicle, fuel, HEA, Enstar, Phones, medical, child care, food and school lunches and school programs; its easy to see why some people need help. Not everyone is an abuser. I was raised with the help of these programs and I see the value.
So much giving in this community with equal selfishness and resentment..

DeborahRose
15
Points
DeborahRose 11/02/13 - 10:48 am
4
0
msjinxie

Where else can you buy a warm meal for $5-$10 other than fast food? Where would you be satisfied to see them spend their state money at?? Do you think everyone has the ability to stock up and buy bulk?? No, not everyone is as blessed as you and some can't even keep their daily cupboards stocked. It's much cheaper to buy hamburger helper and ground beef than to cook from scratch. Where do you live? You have your own farm??
Someday when you need help, someone will help you and I hope you will be greatful for once and less judgemental.

RaySouthwell
1054
Points
RaySouthwell 11/02/13 - 11:12 am
1
0
Deborah Rose

But why? We pick one of two sides. Either increasing the money spent on the poor or make them work harder. Shouldn't we ask why the middle class is shrinking and the poor is growing. If we discussed why the need is increasing we could cause real change. It is not laziness.

wilsonro
100
Points
wilsonro 11/02/13 - 01:50 pm
1
2
Hateful

We’re not talking about the people that really need it, it’s the millions of people that are abusing it! The entitlements in this country have astronomically increased. There will be a time when the middle class will not be able to carry the people in this country who have made a career out of entitlement living, many have generations under their belts? If all you bleeding hearts want to see the mentality of these career entitlement people, just rewind the news to what happened in Greece when the handouts quite!

beaverlooper
3102
Points
beaverlooper 11/02/13 - 03:49 pm
5
0
don't understand

First let me make it clear that i have never had to use food stamps,by the grace of God,but I do know people who do and they need them,a couple are disabled and unable to work.One is a guy a person that works 2 jobs and if he pays his rent he can't feed his family.
I It is obvious from some of the holier than thou comments above that they have no idea how food stamps work. You can not buy cigarettes ,alcohol or eat at Mcdonalds using food stamps. What you can buy with food stamps is food that has NOT BEEN PREPARED. That means no eating out, no buying cooked food . The closest you can come is Papa Murphys in Soldotna because those pizzas have not been cooked.
Buy a freezer?How do you do that when you can't buy enough food to put in it or the electricity to run it?
For you "get a job" people,just pray that you do not have a serious illness or accident that takes everything you own or you may become one of "them" too.

RaySouthwell
1054
Points
RaySouthwell 11/03/13 - 07:24 am
0
0
people stay divided.

Again only two choices. So sad. For those who have good jobs-they are dwindling. For those who believe money grows on trees-it is about to run out. Our money is needed around the world. That need is about to stop. But I see no constructive discussion on what should be done.

wilsonro
100
Points
wilsonro 11/03/13 - 09:42 am
1
1
Beaverlooper

Beaverlooper you didn’t read my first sentence, I do understand the need for entitlements, I think most of the negative comments are from people tired of the entitlement abuse. One story that sticks in my mind is a guy I worked off shore with. He had a neighbor that had been on food stamps for a number of years and told my coworker, why would I want to get a job when I am making more money then you! If this individual would have went into the work force and started out at minimum wage he would have been making less than if he would staying on welfare. When I first started in the work force I was making four times less than I am now. It seems these entitlement people that are abusing the system want to start right out on top the pay scale, I have a big problem with that. We have made it so easy to get free money that people have lost the ambition to go out and earn their way honestly.
I feel very fortunate and grateful that I have not had to use the entitlement system. My heart goes out to the disabled, the orphaned, the widowed, and families that have lost their jobs. These are the reason for these entitlement programs, they were never intended for long term use you see today.

beaverlooper
3102
Points
beaverlooper 11/04/13 - 11:44 am
3
0
I agree

I agree there is entitlement abuse but as far as food stamps go it is pennies on the dollar when compared to large corporations.Monsanto comes to mind, why do they need farm subsidies?
Many large companies receive subsidies ,some in the form of tax breaks.They are rich enough to hire lobbyists ,the people that actually write a LOT of our laws.
The only weapon (and it is a shame I have to use the word weapon) against this kind of government BS the small guy has is the vote and unfortunately the majority of Americans don't bother . Many of those that do don't really look into things they just listen to party line sound bites and believe they're informed.Our republic is broken and has to be fixed,this is not the America I grew up in.

RaySouthwell
1054
Points
RaySouthwell 11/04/13 - 12:27 pm
0
0
beaverlooper

Agreed-
"Many of those that do don't really look into things they just listen to party line sound bites and believe they're informed.Our republic is broken and has to be fixed, this is not the America I grew up in."

The first step in recovery is admission of the problem. Now for a discussion on recovery. Will you take the lead. Where is the recovery discussion?

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 11/05/13 - 04:22 am
0
0
Abuse

Let's discuss ALL the ILLEGAL ALIENS .All 11-13 million of them.They are a major source of the drain of the programs designed for AMERICA'S poor.Does not the term "ILLEGAL"mean against the LAW?Why does the government take from the needy as the people Who caused this problem. Get automatic pay raises,and do not have to give up anything.They sure are working for US,aren't they?

Norseman
3593
Points
Norseman 11/05/13 - 08:03 am
0
0
beaverlooper was right.

beaverlooper was right. Guess where all the decisions are made. They are made by the politicians who are lobbied by lobbyists. What do lobbyists do? They basically swindle deals to get what they want for the rich corporations that are paying them.
That is why the richest corporations the world has ever known, ie Exxon, Chevron, Sclumberge, etc. receive BILLIONS in subsidies.

Who is lobbying for the poor?

As long as we continue to allow corporations to buy politicians as if they were race cars, or sports teams, we will feel the brunt of their financial clout.

RaySouthwell
1054
Points
RaySouthwell 11/05/13 - 08:31 am
0
0
seems to me

Seems to me the illegal alien problem is based on failed economic systems in other countries. Now our system is failing. People want to feed their families. We already know many nations encourage slave labor, for corporations, in those nations where individuals cannot leave. Those close to the USA want to come and work here for pennies compared to citizens born here. What if we developed economic systems that gave people an opportunity to work in their native land, would they still risk coming here?

Kimbo
24
Points
Kimbo 11/05/13 - 11:27 am
0
0
Christians for war, not food

Meanwhile, Brown University's Eisenhower Research Project placed the cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan at about $4 trillion, the Post said.

So Christians would have us believe that this is what Jesus would do?

Spend Trillion killing people overseas, maiming our own service members both mentally and physically....but when some of these same people come home and need food assistance...we don't have the money.

Do the moral high ground hypocrites ever take a look in the mirror? Jesus gave people free food and free health care. He said to treat the 'least of us' as if it were him. That means, treat everyone who needs help as if they were Jesus himself.

I cannot understand a political party that claims to be Christian but has never read The Sermon on the Mount. What Bible are you reading? Who ARE you people?!

5 Billion cuts into the food supply of millions who are already suffering and in poverty, 5 Billion is spend in just days in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And we were expected to believe we were helping the people of Iraq? But we can't help people in our country?

The Republican party makes absolutely no sense and has no justification for their hatred of the poor in this country, who are victims of public policy and are being blamed for the debt created by war.

RaySouthwell
1054
Points
RaySouthwell 11/05/13 - 12:28 pm
0
0
KImbo

I guess all bad behavior from a person of color reflects the behavior of all people of color. And all Republicans think the same and all Democrats think the same. I keep forgetting what we call this kind of thinking? You judge Christianity based on observing the behavior of some people. I suggest you judge Christianity on the behavior of Christ. Christ showed his anger toward the "money changers" The real enemy for prosperity around the world.

If we felt food was a necessity of life, could we develop an economic system to help all people feed their families? I have thoughts on such a system. Nothing new. But no discussion only divisiveness.

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 11/05/13 - 12:31 pm
1
0
Subsidizing

R.S.- I am not in favor of subsidizing any,and all corrupt countries.The majority of "ILLEGALS" are from those type of run countries i.e. Mexico,San Salvador just a couple of the many.The thing that I found amusing.The question of given opportunity,and the desire to enter the U.S. Well! I believe.This country has given many Billions of dollars to do just that.Unfortunately! We have got to deal with corrupt foreign governments for the sake of our.Get this-National Security. I don't know about you,but I get rather bored.When they seem to always fall on the National Security phrase.The phrase is being used to justify almost anything. Ike warned us all.

RaySouthwell
1054
Points
RaySouthwell 11/06/13 - 08:02 am
0
0
Raoulduke

By subsidizing do you mean money. If so, that reflects the problems with our economic system. Its all about money. Now if it was about people we could develop an economic system that helps people feed their families. We could establish such a system and show the world how to do it without giving money to corrupt nations.

It has been long established that war is a great money making system with the banks coming out at the top of that food chain. Private banks create money out of thin air and collect interest on this money and the people pay with their children's lives and tax on their income. In 1933 General Smedley Butler explained it well in his book "War is a Racket." Here is a video of an actor speaking Butler's words.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3_EXqJ8f-0

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 11/07/13 - 02:07 pm
0
0
Money

R.S.-You ask by subsidizing.Do I mean money? "How can one give economic opportunity without the use of money"?

RaySouthwell
1054
Points
RaySouthwell 11/08/13 - 08:15 am
0
0
Raoulduke

Therein lies the problem. Economics is not a perfect science. It is a Social Science just like Political Science. We are told by the expert economists and politicians that all we need to do for the poor people or nations is to give them money. Then they can buy what they need. If money was used to help people or nations become more productive than all people and nations would prosper. Money has no value but it should be used as a tool to improve the productivity of people. These thoughts are not mine but have been used throughout history to establish the greatest economies of the world.

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 11/09/13 - 02:56 am
0
0
Economics

R.S.- We send the Peace Corp to TEACH,and BUILD.This itself cost MONEY. Something this country has done throughout the world for decades.Still these countries have not advanced for the better.WHY? These countries have CORRUPT leadership,and they take the monies given for personal gain.Does this sound like the American Politicians?I think so. You would like to have a different economic system.Well! the first thing that should take place is capital punishment for corrupt politicians period.How many people do you think would run for office then? Honest ones maybe.Just like the petro-political =CORRUPTION.People,and unaccounted for monies=Corruption.Alaska needs an INDEPENDENT auditor.One that does not answer to the governor,or anyone in Juneau.Now that is an independent state auditor.Look at the state of Indiana .this would be a good guideline.Let's keep track of the money.Does anyone in this state know how much money TRULY passes through these state cofers? I do not think so. Alaskan's are way to TRUSTING of their politician's.

RaySouthwell
1054
Points
RaySouthwell 11/09/13 - 09:07 am
0
0
Capital Punishment?

Yes we must find out who is to blame. But we all operate in our own self Interest in the end. Rather, we could develop systems that limit self-interest. An economic system that places encouragement on self-interest but limits it. Today banks have the privilege of creating our money supply. They collect interest on this money created. They are instructed to keep inflation low and unemployment low for this privilege. So created money is lent to make more money by creating asset bubbles. Self-interest of the banks rule the day. We are told it is the normal flow called the business cycle. Hogwash. This boom and bust economic system could be changed and we all could benefit from a more productive economy. I am discouraged on the little discussion I see about economics. I believe we all like the current system. Politicians, Bankers, and yes the people. Money is most important. We complain about war but do nothing. We complain about thieves but do nothing. We want term limits but only for other politicians,not ours. They bring home the bacon. People beat around the bush wanting change but we do not look at the root cause of the problems. You seem to be the only one to ask some tough questions. Oh, as for other countries. We have had a floating exchange rate with other nations currencies since 1971. Our nation may help others through the peace corp. Then the banks manipulate the exchange rate and destroy any sound economy that has been started. All to make more money. And the people love the money made.

RaySouthwell
1054
Points
RaySouthwell 11/09/13 - 09:22 am
0
0
Raoulduke

Here is a recent article about currency manipulation. From 1945 to 1971 our nation prospered because we understood economics and had established a world system called Bretton Woods agreement. Unfortunately money became king in the 60's and Nixon had to change the system.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-07/goldman-sachs-is-under-investig...

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 11/09/13 - 12:42 pm
0
0
YES!

R.S. Capitol Punishment for people that have sworn an oath to uphold OUR Constitution.Then commits acts of CORRUPTION.These people are TRAITORS to their country for doing so.These are the people that hold the highest level of trust offices.You bet! I believe.The act of capitol punishment,or summary execution would have the need only once.Then they-OUR corrupt representatives would get in line like ducklings.We DESERVE,and have the RIGHT to have HONEST representation period.

RaySouthwell
1054
Points
RaySouthwell 11/09/13 - 01:08 pm
0
0
Capital punishment?

We have a process for impeachment for those who do not follow the Constitution. But politics win the day. Hoping for such a drastic change is not possible, unless we go with a "French Revolution." However, my hope is for systems that reward good behavior. Here is an example. An economic system that rewards banks for helping to improve GDP with increase in the nations productivity. Currently, we have an economic system that rewards bad behavior based on making money with dreams of wealth. That does not help the economy but drives the bad behavior in the banks and politicians. Japan understood after WWII. They were a defeated nation and became an economic power because they directed the banks to increase the productivity of the people. Economics Professor Richard Werner explains it well in his book "Princes of the Yen." People will always fail. Systems must be developed to protect the economy from the nature of man.

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 11/10/13 - 02:54 am
0
0
good Intention

R.S.- Your very idealistic about an economic change.Like I have stated.The change will never come from the people making the rules.They have made the rules to benefit themselves not the American masses.So! Having to go against a rigged game.The American loses again.The shame of it not being 1945-1971.We can start the thanking at tricky Dick Nixon.

RaySouthwell
1054
Points
RaySouthwell 11/10/13 - 09:24 am
0
0
Raoulduke

I am idealistic. Rules are laws. I am talking about sound systems to keep bad behavior under control. In 1913 the Federal Reserve was establish. By 1929 their behavior brought down the system. In 1933 the system was changed. Glass-Steagall Act was passed separating investment banks from commercial banks. Commercial banks had the money of hard working people and was then protected by the new FDIC. Investment banks were not protected by the FDIC and if they made bad decisions they went under. Clinton and Congress dismantled the separation of the banks in 1999. The system changed and bad behavior brought us the banks "too big to fail." Today, the system continues unchanged and those banks are bigger than ever and now "too big to jail."

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