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Fayetteville food banks see increased need due to food stamps delay

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© Cumberland County employees have contributed to a food collection box at the courthouse. The donations will help the Fayetteville Urban Ministry. © Cumberland County employees have contributed to a food collection box at the courthouse. The donations will help the Fayetteville Urban Ministry.
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -

A backlog in the state's food stamps program is putting an extra strain on food banks in Cumberland County.

Because of delays in food stamps delivery in recent months, people like Andrea Brown are turning to food banks for help.

"I was expecting to receive my food stamps assistance on the 21st, and they weren't there," Brown explained.

Her full time job barely pays the bills, so the delay in receiving her food stamps drove her to the food pantry at Fayetteville Urban Ministry. It is her next best option to be sure she and her nine-year old have food.

"She's going to eat by all means, but I just hope she hasn't had it as hard as I have," Brown said through tears.

She is just one of hundreds in Cumberland County affected by a backlog in the food stamp program -- created when  problems in the changeover to the new NC FAST computer system swamped Social Services workers.

"Due to those mishaps that have happened at that level, it's somewhat affected us," said Johnny Wilson, the executive director at the Fayetteville Urban Ministry.

Wilson said that has led to an overwhelming increase in the number of people coming to the food pantry.

"In the past couple of months our numbers have basically tripled," he said.

So some shelves are nearly bare, and virtually no meat is available. It is a similar story at the Salvation Army. That is why both food pantries are now working on food drives in hopes of catching up.

Cumberland County's Social Services, which has seen the problem first hand, stepped in to help with a food drive recently. However, right now food banks in Fayetteville and elsewhere across the state say they need more help from the public to restock their shelves because of the food stamps delay.

Brown said she is happy to get what she can, but she worries about the next people in line.

"They just don't know how much it helps out. From one paycheck to the next, it helps a lot," Brown said. "The things that they gave me are going to help a lot. Just imagine how many of ‘me' there are just in Cumberland County alone. So I'm sure they could use all the help they can get."

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Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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