SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Regional residents receiving food stamps had their benefits cut Nov. 1 and local food banks, which receive thousands of pounds of donated food from Slippery Rock University faculty, staff and students food drives, are already experiencing additional demand.
"It seems there is always a food drive going on at the University," said Laurel Dagnon, director of programming for SRU's Center for Student Involvement and Leadership. "CSIL is really only in charge of a few of them, but the University Program Board, certain campus fraternities and other classes and organizations also conduct food drives to benefit local banks throughout the year."
"In total, CSIL supplies 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of food each year to local food banks, including one in Mercer, the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank and Slippery Rock's Feed My Sheep Food Bank," she said.
The recent "Rocky Horror Picture Show" screening sought a canned-good donation for admission and brought in about 600 pounds of food, Dagnon said.
The CSIL's annual "Empty Bowls" event, designed to focus attention on local, state, national and worldwide hunger issues, generated nearly $2,500 that was distributed to the regional food banks, she said. "Knowing of the cuts, I expect we will increase our efforts."
A UPB-sponsored drive is currently under way on campus with collection boxes located in a number of high-traffic buildings.
"We are very, very grateful for everything the University does," said Carol Lambert, coordinator of the Feed My Sheep Food Bank located in the Slippery Rock Community Park.
The Slippery Rock bank serves some 230 families, Lambert said. "Not every family comes in every month. Right now, we are averaging about 175 families per month, and that translates to about 450 people."
"We can't say enough good things about the University students and those who help. They help us unload food trucks that arrive from Pittsburgh, they collect food in drives at the University, they help us sort and stack food - their help is tremendous," she said.
"The recent fraternity drive at SRU brought us about 4,000 canned goods and that really helped us help those who need food," she said. "We are eternally grateful."
Still, Lambert said, she expects to see increased demand this winter because of the federal cuts to the nation's food stamp program.
The cuts were required because Congress did not pass legislation to continue what had originally been implemented as a temporary boost in payments as part of the 2009 federal stimulus package. That law expired without further action. Congress has also not taken action on a new farm bill that also provides food stamp support.
The cut reportedly amounts to about $5 billion nationally, or about 5.5 percent for individual families, in benefits for 2014. It is the first-ever cut in the food-stamp program.
An estimated 47 million Americans, including 3 million people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey receive food stamps. Reports show a family of three will see a $29 per month reduction; $36 for a family of four. One in seven Pennsylvania residents, an estimated 766,000 of them children, receive the food vouchers from the program formally known as "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program" or "SNAP."
To qualify for SNAP benefits in Pennsylvania a person must have an income that is 160 percent of the poverty line, or about $35,000 per year for a family of four.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.