Food stamp reductions cause ripple effect in Maine

1383664621PORTLAND (WGME) — Federal stimulus money that beefed up the food stamp program years ago expired Friday.

It’s called the Hunger Cliff and hunger advocates say we have fallen over the edge.

Paul Trusiani has spent almost every day of the past four decades greeting customers inside his small supermarket on Congress Street in Portland. It’s his business to know what his customers are dealing with and right now he says it’s hunger. “They’re concerns are being able to have enough to eat,” Trusiani said.

He says most of his customers receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. “Sometimes its their last dollar, their last food stamp dollar,” Trusiani said.

And now – those dollars are fewer. The 250,000 Mainers using the program will get less money for food.

“We’re getting $189 in food stamps,” explained Brenda and James Pushard who live in Sagamore Falls. They’re losing about $13 a month. “He’s a diabetic and that means I cant feed him the right way,” Brenda said about her husband.

With these reductions, a family of four could lose up to $36 a month and a family of two could lose up to $20 a month. And with less money to spend on food, more people will turn to community soup kitchens.

“Never mind today’s cuts, yesterday was a crisis, today makes it worse,” explained Amy Gallant with the Preble Street Resource Center. She says Preble Street served more people this week than ever before, breaking a dinner record of 500 meals in one night.

“We’re running out of plates, we’re running out of chairs,” she said.

And Gallant says the cuts will put an even bigger strain on already limited resources. “Everything is operating at capacity and we now that next month we will see even higher numbers,” she explained.

Customers at Paul’s admit they might have to use community food banks for help, which means shorter lines at checkout in the supermarket.

And Trusiani knows what that means for him. It will affect our business, Trusiani said. No question about that.