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Food stamps cut 5 percent
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Food stamp recipients are seeing their benefits reduced this month due to an end in federal stimulus funding.

As part of the 2009 Recovery Act, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program received a temporary boost in funding to compensate for the shrinking economy.

In Rockdale County, about 16,200 people received food stamps in September. As of Nov. 1, each of the 7,400 recipient households in the county now receive about 5 percent less each month.

"This change will impact every household that receives food stamps and the amount will vary depending on the household size and income," said Erica Williams, communication coordinator for the Georgia Department of Human Services. "For example, for a household of three, this change could mean a reduction in benefits of up to $29 per month."

The cuts come against a background of more local families applying for food aid.

Local charities are waiting to see what this might mean for their services.

Susan Clark, the food bank manager at Rockdale Emergency Relief, pointed out only one week had passed since the cut. "It’s a cut but we’re not seeing the effects at this moment," she said.

JenniferWilliford, a consultant for RER, said, "We are certainly hearing from our families that the new changes will make a difference in their lives, but after just one week ... we don’t really know yet."

There has been increased traffic this year, about 30 percent more than last year at the food bank.

RER’s food bank program served 460 people in 199 households in September. However, November and December see some of the highest numbers of families applying for help, said Williford.

"Around the holidays, when our numbers jump significantly, it’s always a challenge to make sure we have enough food to give out to our families," said Williford.

The program is open to Rockdale residents only, whether they are on food stamps or not, and provides one week’s worth of food at a time. Households can apply once every three months.

Food donations can be dropped off at RER Monday–Friday, 9 a.m–4 p.m. at RER’s office, 350 Tall Oaks Drive, S.E., Conyers. Or contact RER at (770) 922-9210 or

Local schools are seeing the effects of a rising number of lower income households. In the past year, the number of students eligible for free and reduced lunches in Rockdale County Public Schools increased about 3 percent. Currently, about 69 percent, or 11,120 RCPS students, are eligible for free or reduced meals at school, according to RCPS Nutrition Director Peggy Lawrence. The free and reduced school meal program, which is federally reimbursable, is not directly related to the SNAP program.

The SNAP, or food stamp, program provides monthly benefits to low-income households to help pay for food. Nationwide, the benefits go to 1 in 7 Americans and fluctuate based on factors that include food prices, inflation and income. Recipients use Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, which function similar to debit cards, allowing them to purchase most food items, excluding alcohol, cigarettes, and hot and previously prepared food.

Due to the struggling economy over the past five years, the federally funded SNAP has more than doubled in cost to now almost $80 billion a year, and has become a target for federal spending cuts.

Negotiations are underway in Congress to further cut food stamp funding as part of a wide-ranging farm bill.


Michelle Kim of The News, Andrew Akers of the Gainesville Times and The Associated Press contributed to this report.