HIGHLAND — Some of Indiana's food banks and pantries are seeing more people lining up for meals or baskets of food in response to a drop in federal food stamp benefits.
The 2009 economic stimulus effort included a boost in food stamp dollars, but that extra funding ended this month. The Agriculture Department says the change means that a family of four is now getting $36 less a month in food stamps.
That decline has boosted the number of people visiting the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana for food, according to preliminary reports from its member food pantries and soup kitchens.
The food bank's spokeswoman, Megan Sikes, told The Times of Munster that more than 400 households visited the Highland food bank last week to get food — an increase from about 230 households that sought help from the food bank during the same period last year.
Although that demand always rises just before the holidays, she said the drop in food stamp benefits "is definitely" a factor in this year's longer lines and higher demand for food.
"We have been getting calls here at the food bank from people who are saying their food stamps were cut, and now they are looking for a pantry to make up the rest of what they need," Sikes told the newspaper.
The office of Lake County's North Township trustee also has seen an increase in demand for food, said Jane Dudley, chief deputy to Trustee Frank Mrvan. This week, Dudley said she helped two elderly women who requested more food because of the food stamp cut. The office has also had requests from diabetics whose food stamp dollars now aren't enough to pay for their special diets.
Even some homeowners are seeking assistance from the office, something Dudley hasn't seen in her 18 years of service in the trustee's office.
"I don't think of Hammond as a depressed area, but it's surprising how many people do require assistance, many of them employed homeowners," she said.