KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Nearly one month ago, a temporary boost in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, ended for families across the nation. To put that in perspective, a family of four was estimated to lose $36 a month in food assistance according to the USDA.
6 News spoke with a family as well as food pantries to see how they're handling the reduction. What we heard was that every penny counts when you're struggling to pay bills and a cut by five percent to food stamp benefits can be harmful.
It's been a tough month for Joyce Christopher putting dinner on the table. She says her family of three can hardly afford groceries and SNAP benefits helped, although hers were cut by $30 on Nov. 1.
"It's a little bit harder, but I still struggle anyway," said Christopher.
She says it's been a hit to her morale because to make up the difference, she's having to put groceries back while in the checkout line.
"I get embarrassed because I look at everybody else and I feel like they didn't put anything back, so it kind of upsets me a little bit," she added.
Christopher and her family aren't alone. More than 400,000 people in East Tennessee rely on monthly food stamps and they're turning to places like Sevier County Food Ministries. The organization says there's been a spike in the number of families needing help since Nov. 1.
"Saw our numbers go from in the 1,300 or 1,400 range per week, that's families fed, up to 1,600. It shot right up, and the last four weeks we've averaged 1,600 families," said Jim Davis with Sevier County Food Ministries.
As we head into winter, the food pantry is anticipating helping more families than ever.
At Fountain City Ministry Center, volunteers say there hasn't been a drastic increase in the need for help, but the agency is dreading what cuts could be coming because of the Farm Bill.
"If that bill is passed to begin at the first of the year, and these folks have to experience another significant cut of 5 or 10 percent, then the impact on us will be huge," said Bill Keeler with Fountain City Ministry Center.
For now, those who are getting a hand up in life from these food pantries say they're simply grateful.
"It was a miracle on that point," said Christopher.
We also checked with Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee. They provide much of the food to the local food pantries. Officials there say they've seen a rise in food requests, but they're hoping it will level out in January 2014.