Food stamp cuts affecting Tucsonans, food bank - Tucson News Now

Food stamp cuts affecting Tucsonans, food bank

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Many southern Arizona families are finding they have less money to spend on food.

Starting Friday the federal government cut back federal SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps.

SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

A family of four getting the maximum amount will get about $36 less each month.

Congress also is considering even more cuts.

Food banks are bracing for the increased demand.

The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona says it helps 225,000 people each month, many of them the working poor.

Those who get assistance include families, disabled people and elderly people.

In fact, a spokesman say the number of elderly people needing the food bank is growing.

So the news that food stamp benefits are being cut, and Congress intends to cut them even further, is a shock to the system of the Food Bank.

$40 to a family of four is a lot of money when your food budget already is strained.@

"Month to month. Usually toward the end of the month it gets tough anyways. So it's going to be even tougher for all of us," says Tucsonan Brittany Zimmerman, mother of a toddler.

Joyce Goodwin Burkey is disabled. She says her husband, who is close to 60 years old, is having a lot of difficulty finding a job.

They have seen their SNAP benefits cut to almost nothing.

"I'll have to find other options. It might be a kitchen, you know, one of those soup kitchens," Burkey says.

Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona President and CEO Bill Carnegie says, "Our lines are going to grow longer. People are going to become more frustrated. They're going to be more challenged in trying to provide for their families, and it doesn't make our community any better."

Carnegie says, for every food stamp dollar spent, it returns about $1.35 to the community.

Many people who get SNAP benefits have health issues that might not improve, or could get worse,  because they can't afford the foods that are best for them.

Tashaun Bryant is one of them.

She says she's trying to lose weight to improve her health, but the food stamp cuts mean she can't afford what she needs.

"I have high blood pressure so I have to eat healthier food and with grocery stores--healthier food is more expensive," Bryant says.

Fresh produce and lean meats are out of reach for many people in need.

"Which means they are looking for things that are less nutritious. Which means they probably--people are going to start gaining weight because they're eating more carbohydrates so they feel full. So there's going to be this perception, 'Oh. They can't be hungry because they're overweight.' That is one of the worst pictures that anyone can paint out there. It's because they can't afford to eat the right kinds of food," Carnegie says.

He calls the food stamp cuts a slap in the face of people who are working, trying to improve their lives, and trying to contribute.

"We'll do whatever it takes to make sure that people are not going to go hungry in our community but we only provide a two-to-three-day supply of food," Carnegie says.

He says the food bank could use donations, but especially needs volunteers.

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