Already overwhelmed, Downriver food pantry braces for proposed SNAP cuts

A little girl helps her mother shop, but they're not at an ordinary grocery store. They're at the Fish and Loaves Food Pantry in Taylor.

It helps thousands of people Downriver make ends meet, giving away 1.6 million pounds of food each year to people in need, a need which is far greater than most realize. Many families who receive government aid still need additional help.

"It is something that's hidden because your neighbors don't tell you, 'I'm in trouble,'" says Mary Hollens. She's the executive director of Fish and Loaves Food Pantry. She's concerned about President Trump's recent proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or so-called SNAP.

Instead of allowing people to purchase their own food with the government benefit, the Trump administration wants to give people half of their benefits in the form of a box of food.

"What's going to be in that box for a mother that's pregnant? For somebody that's diabetic? For young children that might have an allergy? What's going to be in that box for those people?" Hollens wants to know. 

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney compared these proposed boxes of food to high-end meal delivery kit service Blue Apron. Mulvaney also said that it will give people more nutritious options while saving the government money.

According to the budget, the package will feature "100 percent U.S. grown and produced food", with non-perishable items like peanut butter, canned fruits and cereal.

The Trump administration says the plan would save $129 billion over ten years, but critics say it would gut SNAP and send even more people to already overwhelmed food pantries for assistance.

Keeping food on the shelves is already a challenge for Fish and Loaves. That's because a thousand people use the pantry every month. The pantry serves seven Downriver communities.

"We're already stressed in terms of our finances. All the food on these shelves, we purchase. Wwe spend from 25 to $27,000 each month to purchase this USDA food on these shelves," Hollens says. 

"I wish we could do more, but we're just so big we can't. We can only handle so many cities," says volunteer Anita Reinholz.

The President's budget still needs to be approved by Congress and will likely face modifications before that time.