In 2012, nearly 67,000 people in Kalamazoo County needed “food stamps” to get by. A week-long program called the “SNAP Challenge” is underway to draw public attention to the service known in Michigan as the “Bridge card”.
SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal term for food stamps. The challenge is sponsored by Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes where Phyllis Hepp is director of development. Hepp says the issue needs attention because of proposals in Washington to drastically cut federal funding for food assistance.
She says a Senate plan would cut $4.5 billion over the next decade while another in the House would reduce spending by about $40 billion. Hepp says the actual cut for food stamps will be somewhere between those two figures. But whatever the amount, she adds, “We know when people’s SNAP dollars are cut they are going to be running out of food”.
Loaves and Fishes provides emergency food assistance in Kalamazoo County through a network of food pantries. They help people who have lost jobs or find that their Bridge cards run out only three weeks into each month. Hepp says that “gap” is a common problem for those who get food assistance, most of whom are children, seniors, disabled or the working poor.
Hepp says food insecurity is an issue that needs a nationwide solution that can’t rely on transferring responsibility for assistance to private nonprofit agencies. Among other things the SNAP Challenge asks people in Kalamazoo County who don’t use food stamps to try to get by on just $4 a day per person. That’s the amount people on food stamps have every day. That’s just $112 a week for a family of four.
Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes also seeks donations of food for its pantries as well as new volunteers in the community. And Hepp says it hopes the Challenge will prompt people to write their elected representatives in Lansing and Washington to oppose cuts in the SNAP program. The SNAP Challenge runs through August 17th as part of Community Hunger Awareness Month.