By Reubin Turner
Assistant City Editor
Food stamp benefits were cut more than 47 million Americans Friday as Congress failed to renew temporary funding under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.
With the holiday season approaching, food banks across Waco are making plans to meet the growing needs of the community with a special emphasis on food insecurity, which refers to availability of food and one’s access to it.
Texas was one of 10 states listed by Feeding America, an organization that partners with 200 food banks nationwide, as having food insecurity rates significantly higher than the national average.
Recently, Texas has been put in the national spotlight for increasing awareness about the hunger issue in Texas. On Oct. 24-25, Baylor collaborated with the Texas Hunger Initiative and hosted a hunger summit titled “Together at the Table.” According to an article published by the Waco Tribune Herald there has been “increased participation” statewide in summer and breakfast meal usage as a result of the summit.
“Demand has already increased dramatically since Friday,” said Sarah Miller, director of Social Services for the Salvation Army in Waco.
She said many have come in asking questions about letters they’ve received concerning the food stamp cuts.
Ashley Allen, a reporter for KCEN-TV in Waco, tweeted that 35,000 people in Waco received food stamps in October.
According to the US Census, from 2007-2011, 30.1 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.
That’s roughly 13 percent above the state average which is 17 percent.
“Waco is definitely an area that’s been hit hard by poverty, so these coming months will be rough for us,” Miller said.
In an effort to meet the growing demands of the community, area churches are also increasing efforts to feed families across Waco who have been affected by the food stamp cuts.
Nancy Stewart, director of the food pantry at the Living Word Church of God in Christ in Waco, said they provide an open food pantry to the public every other Thursday.
“There are so many people that need to be helped in the community, but if we all pitch in, we can make a significant dent in the issue of hunger across Waco,” Stewart said. She said as of now, she’s not aware of any plans to increase the number of distribution days.
Antioch Community Church also has a food pantry called the Mercy House dedicated to helping the homeless and other families who may need assistance in addition to the food stamps they may receive through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Miller said that there are many ways that people within the Waco and the Baylor communities can get involved.
“Volunteering is a great way for people to respond to a need as great as hunger, especially when it involves two very vulnerable population — children and the elderly,” Miller said.
Miller said people could help food banks across Waco by donating food, time and money. She said it’s important that donors bring non-perishable, unexpired food to the center.
“We depend heavily upon the community for food contributions,” Miller said “Now is a great time for those interested in helping, to donate.”
Miller stressed that as the holiday season approaches, demand will increase even more.
Waco has many organizations in Waco dedicated to helping those struggling to make ends meet, and need assistance with food supplement.
Tulsa, Okla., sophomore Lily Heine said now more than ever, it’s critical that the Baylor community step in to help this growing problem.
“It’s a two-pronged situation,” said Heine who has volunteered at the Women’s Home and the Salvation Army. “We must step in to help others who may not have had the same opportunities as us and in the process, we tend to help build our character as privileged individuals.”