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Decreases in SNAP program could hurt Butte Emergency Food Bank

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 08:47:20 AM MST
Updated On: Oct 10 2013 08:53:19 PM MDT
BUTTE, Mont. -

A temporary increase to food stamps will expire at the end of the month, and that could take food off of some Montana families' tables. If the program isn't extended, some 130,000 Montanans could see cuts to their monthly food benefits.
 
This goes all the way back to the 2009 Federal Stimulus Program.  The stimulus passed by Congress dished out $45.2 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Now if nothing is done, people on the program could lose as much 5 percent of their monthly benefits.

That may not seem like a lot, but NBC Montana found that to one Butte mother, it's food she can't feed her family.

Aurora Jensen stopped into the Butte Emergency Food Bank on Thursday.

She was at the food bank picking up groceries for her fiance, 1-year-old and herself.

"When I heard they were doing cuts, I was like, 'How am I going to pull this off?'"

Right now she gets about $150 a month. For her, a 5-percent cut equals about $7.50. That could be a couple gallons of milk or a few loaves of bread.

On Jensen's budget, she said every cent counts.

"I work at Dollar Tree only 10 hours a week at minimum wage," she explained, "I only bring home $300 a month."

Right now the shelves are stocked with food, but the Food Bank is worried with proposed cuts in the SNAP program, their resources could be stretched thin.

"We are really concerned," said Kathy Griffith, director of the Butte Emergency Food Bank.

Griffith showed us just what an individual gets once a month -- meat, pasta, potatoes, bread, canned fruits and veggies and more.

"The majority of our clients receive SNAP and we supply food every 30 days, and that is really only to supplement what they get on SNAP," Griffith said.

She explained the food bank can't afford to make up the difference, even if it is 5 percent.

"It's very significant!" Griffith said. "They cut it by 5 percent, you look at an individual that's receiving so little anyway and then you cut it by 5 percent? That's huge to them. They may only be getting $36 and you cut that? What can they go buy?"

Jensen is in school right now and trying to get ahead. She knows others in the same situation, and said they are all focusing on the upcoming winter.

"Someone like me or friends in similar situations are looking at this saying, 'How am I budgeting myself? How am I going to pull through this winter?" she explained.

Griffith said although the food bank doesn't know exactly what the impacts of the SNAP program will be on the food pantry, they are committed to making sure no Butte community member goes hungry.