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Florida Food Stamps Receive Cuts

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After a debate, funds to Florida's SNAP were cut.

Cuts to food stamps for over 3.5 million Floridians went into effect Friday, Nov. 1. And more could be coming through the pipeline soon.

Increases in food stamps, which are part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), were approved as part of the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost to the economy. And those increases have run out.

For a family of four, the cuts translate to $36 per month or a total loss of $396 per year. Cuts to benefits in Florida are the third largest.

The cuts mean the average person on food stamps will have about $1.40 per meal. But the average meal in South Florida coasts around $3, according to Feeding America, one of the country’s largest hunger-relief charities.

Nationally, 1 in 7 people receive food assistance through SNAP, and the rate rises to 1 in 5 for Florida. It's expected families will turn to food banks for additional sources of food assistance, but some of the smaller banks are struggling to keep up with demand.

“From last month to this month, we’ve seen an increase in new clients that are coming in that have never been here before,” said Mary Pierce of Pass It On Ministries, a small food pantry in Miami.

"The donations that we receive is not enough to feed those that are in need," she said.

Organizations such as Miami Presbyterian Church, Barry University and the Coast Guard are regular donors to Pass It On. They serve at least 15 and sometimes up to 40 families as day.

Gordon Kirk is a senior whose post-retirement income put him below the poverty line. Initially, his food stamps gave him approximately $50 per month, but after cuts over the past three years, he now receives only $16 per month through SNAP.

"I’m not complaining for myself," Kirk said, "but I sure am for the families that are going to be beat by losing [coverage]."

He’s skeptical that cuts will actually save government money, speculating they would add unforeseen costs to programs like Medicare in the long run. Further cuts are currently under negotiation.

Funding to SNAP is governed by the so-called Farm Bill. Almost 80 percent of Farm Bill funds go to SNAP -- around $80 billion. The House version of the bill proposes to cut $40 billion in the next 10 years, while the Senate plan would cut only $4.5 billion in the same time period. Congress will have to come to an agreement before Jan. 1 to prevent regression to 1940s regulation.

This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with the Miami Herald and WLRN. Become a source at MiamiHerald.com/insight.

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