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Food pantries, food assistance recipients, brace for federal cuts

Maureen McCollum, Wisconsin Public Radio

People who use food stamps and food pantries are bracing for more cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Katie Osman has been in and out of the Salvation Army in La Crosse for a few years. The 27-year-old single mother has a daughter who suffers from seizures. Osman says her caregiving limits where she can work, so her family eats most meals at the Salvation Army. Osman also receives food stamps to help her and her daughter get by.

“If I didn’t have food stamps, I don’t know what I would do,” says Osman. “I know there are other churches that do help out families that can afford food. I’d have to go there and eat there.”

Osman is one of 900,000 Wisconsin residents who started receiving less federal assistance in November after stimulus funds ran out. Food pantries are reporting that they’ve seen a noticeable uptick in the number of people reaching out since the reductions kicked in.

They could soon see even more. Currently, Congress is working on the Farm Bill and one of the most contentious issues is SNAP funding.

Erin Waldhart – the executive director of WAFER, a food pantry based in La Crosse – says the debate over federal food assistance has been stressful not only on families, but on food pantries. Waldhart says they’re already giving out as much food as they can.

“If we get to the point where we’re inundated with people, then we go to plan B and I don’t really know what that is, other than it’s going to take many organizations and the community standing behind us to make that happen,” says Waldhart.

Waldhart says regardless of what happens with funding, they’ll keep feeding everyone who needs food in the region.