Area Food Pantries See Increase in Families Needing Help - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Area Food Pantries See Increase in Families Needing Help

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(KCEN) – Local food banks and pantries say they've seen an increase in the number of families needing help over the last few months. But it's not just one thing driving the spike.

Caritas of Waco helps more than 100 families a day, but in addition to the families they see on a regular basis, they've had nearly 300 new families come in since November.

"This morning I went into the pantry and our shelves were just absolutely empty," Caritas Emergency Assistance Director Lidia Chavez said. 

Chavez says about 15-20% of the families coming in for help is attributed to the food stamp cut back in November. A temporary increase through the federal stimulus package expired, cutting food stamp checks by about 5% for families.

"One person who came in today said they had been cut down to $189 from about $600. I can see in their faces, they're like okay, what we are going to do," she said.

But it's not just food stamp cuts; Chavez says another 5-10% of the families coming in were affected when the unemployment benefits expired after Christmas. Around 1.7 million people lost their benefits, and on Thursday the Senate is expected to vote on whether to extend the benefits another three months.

And another blow… recent frigid temperatures have caused heating bills to skyrocket. "I get quite a few calling in for rent," she said. "There are a lot needing help with rent as their utilities are piling up."

Bell County is seeing this increase as well. Gerald Farris with Killeen's Food Care Center says on Tuesday they helped 200 families stock their pantries, and 20 were first time visitors.

"We have noticed quite a few have been coming down from the food stamp office," he said. "They had some referrals and were told if they needed help to come down here."

Since November Farris says they're helping between 150 to 200 families on a daily basis.

While donations are coming in, both Caritas and Food Care Center say donations are always welcome to help the growing need.

 

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