Looming cuts in food-assistance funding could spell big trouble for Western North Carolina residents, says Joshua Stack, communications and marketing coordinator for MANNA FoodBank. Funds for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, may be cut by $4.2 billion this year, he notes.
“Stats we accessed showed that $160 million in food-stamp benefits were redeemed in Western North Carolina last year, and $60 million in Buncombe County alone,” Stack reports. “There’s no way we could make up for severe cuts in SNAP, so we spend a lot of time engaging state and federal lawmakers to ensure they know these issues are prevalent.”
Nationwide, U.S. citizens redeemed $64.5 billion worth of SNAP benefits in 2010, a $50 billion increase over the 2000 figure, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And as the economy worsened, a broader range of people found themselves turning to SNAP.
Canned corn, green beans and big jars of pickles are stacked to the ceiling at MANNA FoodBank’s distribution center on Swannanoa River Road, yet even this well-stocked warehouse isn’t enough to feed the hungry in Western North Carolina.
And despite recent signs that the economy is improving, local food demand hasn’t slowed.
“We’re not seeing a diminished need at all,” notes Communications and Marketing Coordinator Joshua Stack. “Our agencies are reporting they consistently need more food, and we’re struggling to get them enough.”