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New food stamp rule could lead to increased local food pantry demand

Payne Horning

The U.S. government will soon implement a new rule that makes it harder for able-bodied adults without dependents to get food stamps without working a minimum number of hours per month. With a low national unemployment rate, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it must encourage those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to take steps toward self-sufficiency in order to preserve its resources for those in need.

Becky Lare with the Food Bank of Central New York says those most likely to be impacted by the rule are people who currently have part-time jobs but the hours are not steady enough to support them alone.

"Many of them are already accessing the emergency food network, so they're turning to their local food pantry or soup kitchen just to make ends meet." Lare said, "So any time that they see a decrease or elimination in their SNAP allotment, that means that they may need to be turning to the food network more frequently for assistance."

It's estimated that about 107,000 people in New York state will be affected by the change, which goes into effect in April. States will still be able to apply for waivers in high unemployment areas, but it will be tougher. New York Attorney General Letitia James says her office is prepared to fight the change.

Last week, Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging federal officials to reconsider the new rule. 

"We cannot address our region’s poverty challenges without supporting those working to make better lives for themselves and their families. For this reason, I have called on the USDA to consult with additional nutrition and food security agencies before implementing the proposed changes to SNAP," Katko said in a statement.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.