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Food Stamp Cuts To Hit 270,000 In San Diego County


Peter Brownell, Research Director, Center on Policy Initiatives

Jennifer Tracy, Executive Director, San Diego Hunger Coalition


Food stamp benefits are set to shrink for thousands of San Diegans starting Friday. The change has food banks bracing for higher demand.

Nearly 270,000 people across San Diego County who rely on food stamps, called CalFresh in California, to buy groceries and meals will see their benefits cut 5 percent on Friday.

The monthly benefits for a family of four will drop $36, from $668 per month down to $632.

The federal benefits were temporarily boosted in 2009 during the recession as part of the Recovery Act, but the stimulus is set to expire on Nov. 1. That bill increased monthly benefits an average of $133.

It's a major hit to families who are already struggling, said Jennifer Tracy, executive director of the San Diego Hunger Coalition.

"These benefits are calculated in a very old formula that doesn’t actually give people enough dollars to spend on food for the month," said Tracy.

"Most people’s benefits already run out at the second or third week of the month," she added.

Tracy said they’re expecting more people to turn to food banks, such as Feeding America San Diego, to supplement the cuts.

“We’re already not meeting the need. This is going to make it tougher," said Jennifer Gilmore, executive director for Feeding America San Diego, which provides food to 73,000 people each week.

Gilmore said they supply families an average of three days worth of food per month.

"As these families’ needs increase to possibly four to six days worth of food each month, that could be very devastating to the hunger relief community as a whole," said Gilmore.

Feeding America San Diego distributed 23 million pounds of food last year, compared with 3 million pounds in 2007.

Approximately 450,000 people live below the poverty level in San Diego County, equating to a household income of less than $11,000 for an individual and $22,550 for a family of four.

Across the nation, 48 million people, or nearly 14 percent of the population receive food stamps.

The food stamp program could drop even further in the months ahead as Congress considers more drastic cuts.

In September, the Republican-controlled House passed a bill that tightens eligibility for food stamps and trims funding by $40 billion over the next decade.

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