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Congress is working on a farm bill and SNAP legislation. SNAP is the program better known as food stamps.
In June 2009, Levy County had 6,383 recipients of food aid, about 16 percent of the county's population. Those who were under 125 percent of poverty level in Levy at the time: 8,885 making up 23.5 of the county's population. This data come from a New York Times article done in November 2009 and recently republished by the Food Research and Action Center.
If the average SNAP cut on Nov. 1 is $38 per month, the total loss of money flowing into Levy County, based on the 2009 recipient figures, is $3,813,528 per year.
I know a lot of folks criticize abuses of the program and I am there with you, but this means businesses in this county are losing this much business. It's unlikely SNAP recipients spend this money in other counties. But, still, grocery stores, dollar stores, any store that sells food will be losing this money.
Congress is considering more cuts in the SNAP program. Really, with one in five people living in poverty in Levy, can our community groups and churches step up to feed them without government help? Already churches are distribution centers for USDA commodities. And the folks there will tell you they hardly get enough to provide for everyone.
Food banks and emergency pantries are struggling as well. We are coming into the season where we celebrate with big, lush meals.
I have been lucky to never miss a meal — that's obvious. But I cannot help but wonder what will happen if these cuts continue and no new work appears in our county for people.
What if the county commission had to cut $3.3 million from the budget? You can bet a few people would be losing their jobs. Will some food business be cutting back an employee's hours because business is down — and right at the height of the holiday season.
By the way, this also affects agriculture in our county as the food produced in this county is purchased with food stamps.
It's a good thing every child inthis county gets a free breakfast and lunch. At least the children won't have to suffer while school is in session. But there are the weekends and holidays when there won't be food.
I believe we are commanded to care for those in need. I also believe I cannot let this pass in our county without saying we need to find a solution. I am not sure these cuts without replacement in our communities are the solution.
Our congressman, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, is holding a town hall meeting on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the cafeteria at Chiefland Middle High School. I hope a lot of people will turn out to let him know how they feel about the legislation and suggest solutions. Washington, as we all know, is not in the business of coming up with workable solutions.