New food stamp requirement may affect local food banks

FORT MYERS, Fla.- About 300,000 Floridians will have their food assistance cut off as the federal government adds more rules, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington said.

Assistance will be cut off after three months for unemployed adults between 18-49 years old who aren’t disabled or raising minor children if they aren’t “employed or in a work or training program for at least 20 hours a week,” the center said.

Sandra Richardson says she just lost her food stamps because she’s able-bodied and has no dependents in her care.

“I’m sleeping in the woods, it’s very difficult to have help… so I’m hungry,” Richardson said. “I contributed to our government for 25 years, now I’m in a position where I need help and it’s not there.”

Local social service agencies are helping people stay on assistance or get back on food stamps. They can do so by showing they’re actively looking for work and volunteering in the community.

“There are folks who aren’t going to follow the requirements and those are the folks that us, as well as all the other food pantries, are kind of concerned about,” said Tracey Galloway with Community Cooperative of Fort Myers. “Those are the folks that are going to come back to us needing more assistance.”

Agencies are also focusing on helping the homeless.

“They have to report every month. There is ample opportunity for these folks to understand what the requirements are,” Galloway said.

Richardson is spending a lot of time at Community Cooperative, which operates a soup kitchen and food pantry in Fort Myers.

She says getting a job is tougher than you might think, “especially when you are depleted, and you’re tired and you’re hungry, and you’re trying to get on your own feet.”

The Harry Chapin Food Bank, which supplies food for most of the soup kitchens and pantries in Southwest Florida, says it’s expecting increased demand in coming months and is boosting its efforts to bring in more produce and other donations.

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