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Food Assistance Cut Has Food Shelves Bracing For Impact

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Starting Friday, thousands of Minnesotans using food stamps will have a lot less money to purchase food as billions of dollars are being cut from the Federal Food Assistance Program.

This is the first across-the-board reduction ever for the program.

In 2009, Congress included additional funding for the program in a stimulus bill, but that has now expired, which means a $5 billion cut in food stamp benefits nationwide.

Food Shelves Brace for Impact After Food Assistance Cut

Nationwide, the cuts will impact 47 million people. In Minnesota, the number will be about 550,000.

Christy Mcallister's family is among those families facing a cut. She has a family of six, including four children.

"It's very upsetting," she said. "I'm hoping for anything."

The impact of the cuts varies depending on the circumstance of the household. On average, it will be about a 7 percent drop. For a family of four, it will mean about $36 less a month to put food on the table.

"We only get $250 for four kids a month and us two," said Mcallister. "With an additional $30 cut off, then that means only two weeks' worth of food, max."

The Mcallisters, like many Minnesota families, are turning to food shelves for help. The Camden Promise Food Shelf, located behind the Gethsemane Lutheran Church at 4656 Colfax Avenue North, is the only food shelf on Minneapolis' north side.

"We've received phone calls from our clients asking if we'll be able to provide additional food for them," said Roxi Mork, a board member of the Camden Promise.

Mork said some of the phone calls from people seem desperate. She added that now is the time for the community to step up and donate.

"If your only income to get food is from food stamps and that's cut, what do you do?" Mork said. "Do you not get medicine? Do your pets not get food? You need to feed your children. That's the decision these folks are going to have to make."

Mork said they've had an influx of families on Saturdays when the food shelf opens for business. They average 60 to 70 families a day.

"On Saturdays we have an increase of five to 10 families and we're expecting more," Mork said.

This may just be the beginning of the cuts. Just this week, U.S. House and Senate negotiators started working on the farm bill, which funds food stamps.

The House wants to cut the $80 billion food assistance program by another $4 billion a year. The Senate bill would cut it by less -- about $500 million a year.

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