Volunteers working for food banks are “panicking” over the demand they are likely to face later this month from Americans on food stamps who have seen their benefits slashed.
From today, $5 billion will be wiped off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as a result of a planned stimulus withdrawal. Almost 50 million Americans who are supported by the program, 21 million of them added to the rolls since 2008, will suffer an average loss of $36 dollars a month, which equates to a deficit of about one week of meals per month.
The impact of the cut won’t really begin to be felt until three weeks into the month of November since that’s when most people have typically exhausted their food stamp credit.
According to Margaret Purvis, the CEO of the largest food bank in America, members of her Food Bank for New York City organization, are “panicking” over the decrease in benefits, fearing a rush of hungry Americans
“We’re telling everyone to make sure that you are prepared for longer lines,” Purvis told NBC News.
Purvis invoked the threat of the food stamp cut causing unrest earlier this week when she told Salon.com, “If you look across the world, riots always begin typically the same way: when people cannot afford to eat food.”
Her comments were echoed by Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, who stated, “It’s going to send people into a charitable system that’s already overwhelmed and screaming for help itself.”
A bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans voted to end the stimulus program that paid for the temporary food stamp increase, preferring to spend the money on education and school nutrition programs.
The cut won’t just affect those who are unemployed since over half of food stamp recipients have jobs but don’t make enough money to be able to pay all their bills and cover groceries.
“It’s always, ‘I’ve got to get something for my kids.’ They’re not coming in and asking for snacks or this or that. They’re asking for things like milk and cereal,” said Purvis, adding that parents are struggling to feed their children breakfast.
The cuts “will be close to catastrophic for many people,” Ross Fraser, a spokesman for Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity, told CBS News.
As we saw earlier this month, a glitch in the system which temporarily halted EBT purchases for just a few hours led to looting and mini-riots at several Walmart stores.
Reacting to the downtime, food stamp recipients warned that if the glitch was to re-occur it would lead to Rodney King-style riots, a reference to the 1992 L.A. riots which resulted in 53 deaths, 2,000 injuries and over $1 billion dollars in property damages.
Fox News’ Neil Cavuto suggested that the Department of Homeland Security’s recent $80 million dollar outlay on armed guards to protect government buildings in upstate New York was related to potential food stamp riots.
As we reported on Wednesday, the DHS has also purchased half a million dollars worth of fully automatic pepper spray launchers and projectiles that are designed to be used during riot control situations.