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WDAY: The News Leader

Published July 19, 2012, 10:00 AM

Otter Tail County sees huge increase in food assistance program usage

Becker County, MN (WDAY TV) - Big cuts to federal food assistance programs have been proposed in Congress; this as one Minnesota county is seeing a sharp spike in people who qualify for these programs.

By: Becky Parker, WDAY

Otter Tail County, MN (WDAY TV) - Big cuts to federal food assistance programs have been proposed in Congress; this as one Minnesota county is seeing a sharp spike in people who qualify for these programs.

A struggling economy has more Otter Tail County residents turning to federal food assistance, and in recent years, more of those applicants are eligible.

John Dinsmore – Human Services Director: “They also made some changes so that it was easier to apply for benefits. And I think that's also made a difference.”

In the last three years, the county has seen a 64% increase in people eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That means 4,200 people in the county now use SNAP.

The House Committee on Agriculture recently proposed a bill that would cut that program by more than $16 billion nationally. It's an effort to bring down the budget.

John Dinsmore: “Individuals that have come on recently have probably been working families, and working families with children. And, yeah, it would mean that they would probably really have to tighten the bill when it comes to where they're spending their dollars.”

If federal food assistance does see deep cuts it could put more strain on local food shelves, many of which are already struggling to get by.

Dorothy Ross – Pelican Rapids Food Shelf: “If it gets cut drastically it would have a big impact, especially here in Pelican because we have such a diverse culture.”

How deep the cuts will go is still unknown, but it's clear that food shelves may need to provide an extra safety net.

The cuts are part of the Farm Bill, moving through Congress.

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