FORT WORTH — Tarrant Area Food Bank officials are concerned about a 5 percent funding cut in the federal food stamp program that takes effect Friday.The reduction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also called food stamps, will affect around 3.5 million Texans, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.Those receiving benefits recently got letters informing them of the funding cuts, the commission said. A family of four will lose an average $36 per month and no more than $11 per individual, the agency said.An official at the Tarrant Area Food Bank said partner agencies that rely on the food bank may not see much difference the first month, but things could get worse as families continue to stretch their dollars.“At this point, we don’t know what this will mean locally, food bank spokeswoman Andrea Helms said.The funding cut results from the end of SNAP benefits under the federal stimulus program. The Investment and Recovery Act was passed in 2009, and funds were added to the SNAP program to help needy families during the recession.Helms said the SNAP program is meant to supplement monthly grocery costs, but it is not meant to pay for all the food for a family.Families often have to juggle buying food with other expenses such as utility bills and rent, she said.SNAP benefits are determined by family size and income. The average amount a family receives is $285 a month, according to the state agency.Helms said food needs for families vary depending on whether there are growing teenage boys, small children or elderly relatives who need special diets.Helms said that although more jobs have been created, they are low-wage and people work fewer hours.“In Texas, we like to brag about creating jobs, but the recession isn’t over yet,” she said.Concerns are also growing as Congress continues to debate deeper cuts in the SNAP program.Last month, the House narrowly approved cutting $40 billion over 10 years. The bill is not expected to pass the Senate. The bill also calls for adults ages 18-50 without minor children to find a job or enroll in a training program before receiving benefits.
Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696 Twitter: @fwstliz