CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said thousands of West Virginians celebrating Thanksgiving will be plagued by "devastating" reductions in federal food assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Department of Agriculture's Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
In his weekly Wednesday column, Rockefeller wrote, "It's a time of gratitude and love shining through in busy kitchens and around crowded dining room tables. It is a time for recipes to be handed down and leftovers shared.
"But for many, it can be a time of worry and stress over how to provide a meal, not only on Thanksgiving, but the next day and the next."
During the Depression in the 1930s, the government created the safety net, now known as SNAP, to provide food for the poorest Americans. SNAP is also called the food stamp program.
"Here in West Virginia, SNAP benefits represent a lifeline for one in five of our friends and neighbors, including thousands of children," Rockefeller wrote.
But on Nov. 1, SNAP financial assistance was cut by about $36 a month for a family of four and $29 a month for a family of three.
Rockefeller is pushing Congress to restore SNAP benefits and strengthen the TEFAP program that provides food to many local food banks for the poor around the Mountain State.
West Virginia's median income ranks 48th in the nation today, which is lower than all states but Arkansas and Mississippi.
In 2012, 17.8 percent of all West Virginians were living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The federal poverty income threshold for a family of four is $23,550 each year.
Rockefeller said it is "important to remember our most vulnerable families -- not just during the holidays, but every day -- and do all we can to support them, including making sure critical food assistance programs like SNAP and the Emergency Food Assistance Program are fully funded.