By the time a delivery truck rolled out of the parking lot of the Lorain Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 451 on Wednesday afternoon, dozens of people received food from Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio, which brought its mobile food pantry to the area to combat local food insecurity.
Demand for programs like the mobile pantry will increase if changes are made to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as the food stamp program, said Second Harvest CEO Julie Chase-Morefield.
Food stamps are the stop gap that keeps families from hunger, Chase-Morefield said during a county commissioners meeting where the county officials passed a resolution urging federal legislators to rethink proposed changes.
Commissioners urged the Ohio congressional delegation to “oppose the proposals in the president’s budget that would force harmful cuts and changes to SNAP and to oppose a farm bill or other legislation that would cut SNAP benefits or make other harmful changes to the program.”
The president’s proposals would shrink the program, implement stricter work requirements and start a system of distributing food boxes to families that receive assistance.
In a county where more than 47,000 residents are struggling with food insecurity, Chase-Morefield said SNAP is the cornerstone for hunger relief.
“We find people living below 130 percent of poverty are more food secure and that’s because of the SNAP program,” she said. “We worry about those families that are between 130 percent and
200 percent because that is where food insecurity is seen.”
Those families make too much for assistance, but often not enough to handle all the food needs in their homes. They turn to one of the 47 food pantries in Lorain County to help with that need. If fewer people receive SNAP and more people turn to food pantries, it will only tax the system, Chase-Morefield said.
“The food pantries really are maxed out on what they are able to do,” she said.
Commissioner Lori Kokoski said she doesn’t believe the president’s suggestions, especially the delivery of food boxes to families, would work.
Kokoski, who this year is serving as the Harvest for Hungry honorary chairwoman, said she has learned from experience that packing the boxes that are now done by the pantries is time-consuming although rewarding.
“Every box goes to a person in need,” she said.
Chase-Morefield said that portion of the agency’s work through the federal food commodities program gets food to seniors, but even her agency uses volunteers and does not handle direct distribution. To add those kinds of responsibilities would be costly.
Commissioner Matt Lundy said residents who also don’t agree with the proposed changes need to act.
“There is still time to make the phone calls and get the letters out,” he said. “It looks like it’s a partisan farm bill that will move forward across those lines, and unfortunately there is not strong support for SNAP.”
Lundy said the statistics surrounding food insecurity in Lorain County are vey startling.
“If folks can only see it, it is heartbreaking to know the number of folks that have anxiety around meals and how they will feed their families,” he said.