Alaskan agencies that feed the hungry are bracing for expected cuts as Congress considers slashing the federal food stamp program by as much as $40 billion within the next ten years.
"If there continues to be additional cuts to the food assistance program and safety nets in place, it puts additional strain, and we can't simply just make up the gap," said Mary Sullivan, who is the director of advocacy and agency relations for the Food Bank of Alaska. "These are the folks who are the working poor, struggling to make ends meet and every little bit helps so that as much as they can get for food and food stamps means then they can pay for their gas or their rent."
Another agency that helps assist people in need is the St. Francis House food pantry, run by Catholic Social Services. The pantry says it has seen a 30% increase this year and could see more people with a majority of its clients saying they rely on the federal food stamp program.
"Probably another 30% because going from 60 families a day to 90 and now with the cuts we would definitely go over towards the 120 on up to 130 a day," said Linda Bond, director at St. Francis House.
Hunger advocates say the cuts could lead to a food stamp crisis.
Ron Kreher, the director of the state's Division of Public Assistance, says his office is still trying to figure out what impacts could be made if the cuts are approved. According to Kreher, the only major impact he sees so far is the able bodied requirement that would not give food stamps to Alaskans who have no dependents and are not working. The change would affect 2,000 of the 93,000 Alaskans on the program.
Congressman Don Young, (R-Alaska), voted against the bill because he says provisions put in for people to receive food stamps don't work in rural Alaska where food and jobs are scarce.
"Things like if you’re able body; you have to get a job, where, you have to be trained, where, and when you are done getting trained where," said Rep. Young.
The proposed cuts to the food stamp program passed the House 217 to 210, and it still has to go through the Senate.
Contact Corey Allen-Young