Federal cuts putting pressure on local food pantries

TRENTON, N.J. - November 25, 2013

Takia tells us, "They run out of food pretty fast. So we actually run out. We know we can come here because they'll help us if we need it."

The couple recently moved to New Jersey from New York. Cofield is looking for work, but in the meantime the family relies on SNAP, the federal food assistance program, and help from the Catholic Charities Food Pantry on Warren Street in Trenton, where we found them picking up the fixing's for a Thanksgiving dinner.

Israel says, "Getting the employment situation handled and in the meanwhile the finances aren't there, so we come here for them to help us out."

But managers at the local pantry say a look at some of the empty shelves is proof it's become increasingly difficult to help all the people who need it. Donations are down but demand is decidedly up, triggered by recent cuts in the SNAP program.

Catholic Charities Executive Director Marlene Lao-Collins explains, "All of a sudden November 1st the reduction has happened so more people are coming in and it's sad."

A family of 4 receiving benefits now gets $632 a month. That's a cut of $36 a month, which may not seem like a lot but can be devastating to struggling families.

Case manager Talaya Woodall says, "People have to pay bills also so it's kind of hard for them to balance out paying rent and food."

Shakeria Elliott of Trenton tells Action News, "I just had to put little odds and ends to make the whole meal and me and my family get to eat for the whole month."

Community Affairs Assistant Markeesha Ferguson explains, "We used to service 40-50 people on our food pantry days, which is Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. But recently we had to take that down to 25 people because of the food donations we aren't currently getting in."

The pantry now hands out tickets to the first 25 people who line up at the door. The rest are turned away.

As they pack and distribute Thanksgiving meals for clients, the pantry is asking the public for cash and food donations during the holidays, and beyond. They say the need is urgent and they want to restock the shelves with enough food to feed those who need it.

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