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Happy Thanksgiving? Thousands in MA Facing “Meal Gap”

PHOTO: Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings may have to be trimmed back this November, as automatic cuts in SNAP, or food stamp, benefits are beginning to affect thousands of Commonwealth residents. Photo by Ben Franske, Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings may have to be trimmed back this November, as automatic cuts in SNAP, or food stamp, benefits are beginning to affect thousands of Commonwealth residents. Photo by Ben Franske, Wikimedia Commons.
November 7, 2013

BOSTON – During the recession, the stimulus package temporarily boosted the amount of SNAP or food stamp benefits.

But that's expiring, and households like Laurinda DeRosa's in Dorchester are going to see a drop in benefits this month – in her case $29 less per month.

DeRosa lost her job of 20 years for health reasons last November and figures Thanksgiving this year is going to be scaled back.

"It's going to be less than what I used to do,” she admits. “I went to a food pantry and put my name on a list for a turkey. You know, at least that can help."

Ironically, because her 21-year-old daughter lives at home and has a job and a paycheck, the household already receives less SNAP benefits than if DeRosa lived alone with her 11-year-old son.

She's kept her sense of humor about it, saying, "You know how it is with kids these days – they won't leave!"

Anti-hunger advocate Pat Baker of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute explains how SNAP regulations can work against a household like DeRosa's.

"The daughter, who has a minimum wage job, is supporting the family,” she points out. “She doesn't have the option of not getting her income counted. And the family's relying on her income and a small amount of food stamps.”

About 888,000 Commonwealth residents – or nearly 14 percent of the population – receive SNAP benefits.

Baker says the Farm Bill currently in different forms in the House and Senate would include additional cuts to SNAP, which she says would be unconscionable.

"We can't handle any more cuts to the SNAP program,” she insists. “Congress should be restoring the benefits that are being taken away in November and the rest of the fiscal year."

While Congress considers more ways to cut SNAP benefits, DeRosa is resolved to not let that sour her family’s Thanksgiving.

"I'm not going to let that happen,” she says. “I mean, it's a joyful, you know, being with your family on this time of Thanksgiving. But I'll make the best of it."


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA