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Friday links: Cuts to food stamps, $10 produce bonuses at markets

Food is a big topic this time of year, especially for those who are planning extravagant holiday meals. We all love to talk about the best sweet potato casserole recipe (topped with streusel, not marshmallows, of course) or techniques for brining turkeys.

But year-round, including the holiday season, many of our friends and neighbors struggle to get food on their table.

Here’s a few tidbits and links:

Earlier this month, scouts picked up bags of non-perishable groceries from door stoops. The Fredericksburg Area Food Bank received 1,000 turkeys last week–but hoped to receive more donations to help 3,400 people. Many other groups have other drives, like SERVE’s “stuff the truck” events. (The next is set for tomorrow at the Giant on Route 610; another will be held Nov. 23 at the Town and Country White Oak.) Fellow reporter Amy Umble keeps up with many drives for food and gifts on her Doing Good blog.

The local farmers markets are a good resource for healthy food for many families. The Nutrition Incentive Program has seen more use as a result of cuts to food stamps, now called SNAP benefits, says Spotsylvania market manager Elizabeth Borst. Shoppers can offset the 5 percent by using their benefits at the farmers markets–and getting a weekly $10 bonus to buy additional fruits and vegetables. The program is currently funded by the Mary Washington Hospital Foundation and adds up to about the amount of benefits lost by a family of four. The farm-to-pantry pilot program is also helping low-income families get greater access to produce.

Learn more about the food stamp cuts in this New York Times article. Affecting 47 million Americans, “it is the largest wholesale cut in the program since Congress passed the first Food Stamps Act in 1964 and touches about one in every seven Americans,” the article says.

The Washington Post also just wrapped up a five-part series about the U.S. food stamps program. The fifth installment is titled “Too much of too little: A diet fueled by food stamps is making South Texans obese but leaving them hungry.”

Borst also shared this Washington Post opinion piece about the effects of the Nov. 1 cuts–$99 million was taken from 941,000 people in Virginia alone. And charitable efforts can’t make up the difference, the author notes, advocating for long-term change. “The SNAP program provides about 20 times as much help as the entire charitable food network. That means when SNAP benefits are cut by 5 percent, charitable organizations have to double their contributions across the nation to keep up.”

CNN’s Eatocracy posted an interview with a mother of two who had lived a comfortable life but became food secure within a matter of months. “If the numbers one in four are remotely accurate, then you know these people,” she said. “They teach your children, put out your fires, deliver your mail. Many of us have had salary freezes and were able to afford the same food in 2010 but three years later, our income has stayed the same while the cost of bread has doubled.” Find the article here.