Food stamp cuts hit Berks County hard

Posted: 11:56 AM EST Nov 03, 2013   Updated: 1:54 PM EST Nov 03, 2013

You've heard about the cuts to food stamps this weekend, but one part of our area is getting hit especially hard. In Berks County, one in six people receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Now, some of those people are making dire predictions.

Starting Friday, just weeks before Thanksgiving, food stamp benefits were cut five percent across the board. Few places in America will be hit harder than Reading, with one of the nation's highest poverty levels.

"I do think it's going to impact Reading a lot," said SNAP recipient Amaryllis Garman.

Garman is one the roughly 63,000 people in Berks County receiving government food benefits. That's 15 percent of the county's population.

"The cost of food is going up," she said. "For them to cut it by five percent is going to be very hard on a lot of people."

Technically, the cut is not really a cut at all. Congress simply decided not to extend an earlier increase.

"We need to reform the food stamp program with better policies, said U.S. Rep. Mike Conway, R - Texas. "I'm not so much concerned about the planned spending that will be reduced as is getting policies that promote work and dignity."

Also to blame is President Obama, who borrowed from the food stamp fund to pay for the First Lady's anti-obesity program. Mr. Obama says he's now trying to get some of that SNAP money restored, but given what we've seen in Washington lately, any kind of deal could be very hard to come by.

"I know a number of members of Congress have expressed concerns about this offset being included in the bill, and I'm committed to working with them to restore these funds in the future," he said recently.

Back in Reading, some dire predictions from those affected most if funds aren't restored.

"Do you know how much people are going to be stealing food now?", asked resident Sandra Cancel. "Watch-- a lot of these local supermarkets are going to get robbed. A lot of them."