Food for Thought


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Last year, some 60 families in the Triboro area had help with their Thanksgiving holiday meals via a program from the United Neighborhood Centers of Northeast Pennsylvania (UNC).

This year, the need for food assistance is anticipated to grow, coming on the heels of funding cuts to the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP). Those cuts produced an average benefit decrease of $36 effective this month to the amount of financial food assistance to a family of four.

While $32 amounts to $8 a week, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities called these cuts “especially painful in light of the inadequacy of existing benefit levels.”

Stacy Dean and Dottie Rosenbaum penned a report available online at cbpp.org, which highlights what the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council call “shortcomings” with the current SNAP benefit program, including: “that most benefit levels are based on unrealistic assumptions about the cost of food, time preparation, access to grocery stores and resources to purchase an adequate diet.”

Dean and Rosenbaum conclude that the SNAP cut will be the equivalent of taking away 21 meals a month for a family of four.

With the holidays coming, and agricultural experts giving a $50.01 price tag to a 2013 Thanksgiving meal for 10 adults, the UNC will offer a way for those facing hardships and SNAP cutbacks to supply the traditional meal to their families without the struggle.

Families who register for the program must have children 18 or younger living in the household. Proof of income (examples can include Access Cards, unemployment records, current pay stubs, social security letter) and any form of documentation of family members in the household is required for registration.

Registration will be held at the agency’s Community Services Building, 410 Olive St. in Scranton. Families can register weekdays through Friday, Nov. 22, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and on Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Each family will receive a basket including a turkey, potatoes, carrots, bread or croutons, cranberry sauce, celery, onions, apples, pumpkin pie mix, pie crust mix, non-dairy whipped topping, and canned vegetables. Distribution of baskets will begin at 10 a.m. at St. John Neumann Church, 633 Orchard St. in Scranton.

Last year, the Thanksgiving Food Basket Program fed more than 1,500 families in the community. Funding comes directly from community members and donations, and with the increase in need seen throughout the year at local food banks and pantries, UNC expects it will need to raise at least $30,000 this year to meet the growing demand at a cost of $35 per family.

United Neighborhood Centers is accepting both monetary and traditional Thanksgiving food donations to assist in the Thanksgiving Feed-A-Friend Food Basket Program.

For more information or to make a donation call 570-346-0759 or 570-343-8835, or go online at www.uncnepa.org/donate.

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