CHATTANOOGA, TN. (WDEF-TV) The 48 million Americans who depend on food stamps will be tightening their belts starting this month.
Benefits are being reduced by 5% as the recession-era program expires.
Local assistance groups say they will be struggling to keep food on the table in some homes.
WOMAN "I'll have to tell my 13 year old, sorry, hold off on that peanut butter sandwich..we have to make that break last."
Congress passed legislation during the height of the recent recession, temporarily boosting the food stamp benefits.
That is expiring today and it will cost a family of four about 36 dollars out of the average benefit of 278-dollars a month.
HOLLY ASHLEY, CHATTANOOGA FOOD BANK "Many of these families already have a very restrictive food budget..36 dollars could be several meals for a family."
The local food bank serves 20-counties in southeast Tennessee and north Georgia, and it may feel the impact as well as families.
HOLLY ASHLEY "What you're going to see is ....parents going without meals so they can feed their children....you'll see children in-taking much less nutritious food, their school performance will be affected".
One of the biggest agencies helping needy families with rent subsidies, utility costs and food...is Metropolitan Ministries.
Concern among clients there is great.
RECECCA WHELCHEL, EXEC. DIR., METROPOLITAN MINISTRIES "When they know that this crunch is coming on their food stamps, then they become more desperate for everything else, which makes them..which forces them to choose even more drastically between food and medicine, between food and shelter, between food and running water."
The METMIN center can accommodate about 30 clients a day, but Rebecca Whelchel says people are lined up outside as early as 3 a.m.
REBECCA WHELCHEL "Its just one more symptom of a community that faces such a huge poverty rate.
A 5% cut in food stamps may not seem like much, and it may not be be debilitating to a family..but it may create a major hardship on some.
Members of the House have pledged to trim the Food Stamp program by some 40-billion dollars, and asking for tighter requirements for those using it.
Since 2000, the cost of the program has jumped 358 percent.