Millions of residents in the United States lost part of their government food assistance on Friday.
The cuts affect over 160,000 people in Western Massachusetts.
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts distributes food to over 300 shelters and pantries across the area. They are worried that Friday's cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could be just the beginning.
"Sometimes you have to make that sacrifice," said Amherst resident Manuel Pintado. "Okay, I can't afford this today because I don't have enough money."
Pintado is no stranger to the Northampton Survival Center, one of many food pantries in the Pioneer Valley. Pintado, who served as a Navy reservist in the 1991 Gulf War, will see his SNAP benefits drop almost 10-percent each month.
"But still, I have to be able to put food on the table and be able to survive," Pintado stated. "So, when I go into the store and use my food stamps, I have to try and extend really as much as I can."
Officials said a family of four will see their food assistance reduced by an average of $36 a month.
As the winter months arrive, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts understands people may have to choose between a heating bill and a food bill.
"Our role is to make sure that people have food," said Andrew Morehouse, executive director of the food bank.
Morehouse said feeding people will become tougher with the benefit cuts. He told CBS 3 that the food stamps program grew dramatically due to the economic downturn. People are supposed to leave the program as the economy recovers.
"But frankly, many people on food stamps are working as hard as they can, but they're still not getting by. We have a problem," Morehouse stated.
A problem that he believes may only grow over time.
"Additional cuts will result in anything from a greater amount of people relying on emergency food, to quite frankly a tsunami of people who have lost the SNAP benefits and the meals that come with it," said Morehouse.
As for Pintado, he is currently majoring in Sociology at the University of Massachusetts. He said he would like to one day help re-instate the assistance that he believes people need.
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