Last November, a temporary stimulus to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) expired, leaving 480,000 Massachusetts residents with fewer funds to stretch throughout the month.
On the Vineyard some 400 families who receive monthly food benefits (formerly called Food Stamps) have been affected.
In response to the cuts, the volunteers acting on behalf of the Island Food Pantry have begun a campaign to make up for that loss, which in the case of a family of four, meant a reduction of $36 per month.
Called Campaign 36, the project seeks to raise awareness about the benefit reduction, and encourage those in need to visit the Food Pantry.
Organizers are also asking Islanders who can to donate $36 to the Food Pantry to help meet a growing need.
The appeal, intentionally modest, is designed to galvanize a response from a wider cross-section of Islanders.
“If you donated that amount, you would really be doing the most that is asked of you,” said Joan Borkow in a recent presentation to the Island clergy. “We are trying to work on a grass roots level to make up for what the federal government has taken away from the community.”
While many food assistance recipients already visit the pantry, others may be unaware of the resource or are ashamed to try it out, said Rev. Armen Hanjian, a volunteer who heads the pantry.
The Island Food Pantry provides food to those needing it on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Christ United Methodist Church (Stone Church) on the corner of William and Church Streets in Vineyard Haven.
In 2013, the pantry spent $47,500 to buy Stop & Shop gift cards and $58,971 to buy food.
Visit islandfoodpantry.org for more information.