TYLER, Texas (KLTV) -Fewer people are depending on a government program that provides food to hundreds of East Texas families.
“We have lower participation than we have historically,” explains Tim Butler, Program Services Director, East Texas Food Bank.
According to new data from Health and Human Services, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, has diminished and hit a 10 year low.
“I don’t think that’s necessarily particularly indicative of the need though. I think there is still a lot of hungry people across the 26 counties we serve in Northeast Texas,” explains Butler.
He says the nonprofit has seen close to a 10,000-enrollment participation drop in the past year.
“We don’t want people to rely on emergency food resources for the rest of their lives, but we also want to make it accessible to the people that truly do need it,” adds Butler.
SNAP provides a lifeline to low income families and people with disabilities living on a fixed income with a consistent means to purchase nutritious food.
“I think it’s really important for people to understand how important the SNAP program is not only to these individuals, but also to our small local economies,” says Butler.
Butler says one in seven senior citizens and one in four kids in East Texas are food insecure.
“The average amount of money a senior gets from a SNAP program is $16 a month. So, it’s truly supplemental. They’re not living off the system,” explains Butler.
He attributes the drop off as part of the persistent low employment, tightening requirements, funding cuts, and Texas requiring the 26 page approval application to be filled out online.
“We do think there is some regulation with SNAP that's really creating a barrier for folks that need it,” says Butler.
While some recipients are hesitant in seeking help. Advocates hope people who qualify for the program take advantage since it could impact partner agencies.
“If there are folks that otherwise would be participating in SNAP, but are hesitant to do so whether it be not wanting to put out your personal stuff or wanting to save the money for other people to participate in the program they’re going to need more food from another resource. A lot of time that falls on the pantries we partner with.”
19 percent of East Texas Food Bank’s entire population of their 26 county service area is food insecure according to Feeding America.