GOOSE CREEK, SC (WCSC) -
A local food bank is stepping in to help families put food on the table in Berkeley County.
They're seeing more families than usual, asking for help now that the food stamp benefit program is back to pre-stimulus levels.
"We provide food for people in crisis," said Michelle Arredondo, executive director of Helping Hands of Goose Creek.
Helping Hands of Goose Creek began during a time of need.
"1989, since right after Hugo," said Arredondo.
More families have been walking through the door for help since last November. That's when federal stimulus money from 2009 ran out. That money temporarily boosted the amount each family got from the food stamp program, called SNAP.
Arredondo said, "We are seeing an average of 15 to 20 new households come through needing help from us for the very first time and that has been consistent almost every week since the cuts have happened."
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are 875,000 households in the state on SNAP. The average each family gets a month is about $276.
"The social service offices have actually advised the clients to seek out food pantries in their local community," said Arredondo.
More families coming in mean more food going out for the food bank.
Arredondo said, "Donations have been pretty steady, but we have found times when we have to go and buy food and when we purchase food, it's a retail cost."
Families who qualify for help from helping hands, get everything for free.
"Our scale is our cash register so to speak," said Arredondo.
The system is based on how many people are in each family. That determines how many pounds of food they get.
Arredondo said, "We send them home with about 10 to 15 days worth of food to feed their family."
In order to take that free food home, families must also take budgeting classes.
"to help get back on track, giving them the tools that they need to develop a budget, to understand how to clean up their credit, how to do the different things to get them out of that and work towards self sufficiency," said Arredondo.
The spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Social Services said Congress recently voted to make cuts to SNAP.
Right now it's not clear how or if those getting benefits in South Carolina will be affected.
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