Extension of Farm Bill drags on uncertainty for food banks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The fiscal cliff deal in Washington hasn't solved anything for the estimated 45 million people in the country struggling with hunger. Funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps, remains uncertain.

SNAP is funded through the Farm Bill and faced deep cuts this past fall. However, Congress failed to vote on a new bill. Because of the fiscal cliff deal, the bill has been extended through Sept. 30.

For food banks, the extension creates more unknowns.

"We've got a year extension, but that doesn't mean that anything is solved," said Joanna Sebelien, chief resource officer at Harvesters Community Food Network.

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Cuts to the food stamp program would create more of a demand at Harvesters, which Sebelien said is already stretched thin.

She said 375,000 people need food assistance in the 26 Missouri and Kansas counties Harvesters serves. Sixty percent of those people do not qualify for food stamps.

"We're already trying to serve those 60 percent, and if those additional numbers came to the food pantries and the kitchens and the shelters in our network, that would put incredible strain on it," Sebelien said.

With a new Congress just sworn in, Sebelien worries funding food stamps could become an ever tougher sell to new members.

"Now we know nothing. It all starts over again," she said.

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