Two stories in the past week highlight an alarming erosion of compassion in this country.

On Friday, The York Dispatch reported local social services agencies are bracing for an influx of hungry families and individuals now that a temporary increase in food stamp funding has expired.

More than 47 million Americans who receive food stamps will get fewer benefits -- about $36 less a month for a family of four, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

That might not sound like much to some people, but for those on a fixed income, who have seen their wages stagnate or even decline since the recession, food stamps might be their primary source for nutrition.

The rolls have swelled as the economy struggled, and the benefits now go to one in seven Americans.

The Rev. Paul Gorog, executive director of the York Rescue Mission, said he believes last week's food stamp reductions will translate to more people showing up for food at the mission.

"When they're not able to get the food they need, they'll come," he said. "The need for meals will become greater. There are people, families, that depend heavily on these food stamps."

Keep in mind, the expiration of the temporary increase in food stamp funding is separate from cuts to the program Congress is now considering as it haggles over the Farm Bill.

Even before the recent reduction in benefits, more people were forced to rely on local food pantries.

The York County Commissioners reported earlier this year its food distribution to area pantries increased to 780 tons in 2012-13, up from 545 tons in 2011-12 and 396 tons in 2010-11.

That accomplishment is particularly impressive considering the state cut funding to the Food Purchase Program, which provides the food, during that same time.

Well, you might say, times are tough all over. It's unfortunate, but everyone is taking a hit.

Not quite.

An Associated Press story in Tuesday's Dispatch noted Pennsylvania taxpayers could be on the hook for about a $1 billion in subsidies state officials have pledged to the natural gas industry.

On top of that, AP reports, lawmakers have approved what could be Pennsylvania's biggest ever taxpayer-paid economic development incentive to entice oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC to build a petrochemical refinery here to convert natural gas liquids into ethylene.

Those subsidies alone could exceed $1 billion over 25 years.

Meanwhile, the York County Area Agency on Aging is urging families to check on seniors who rely on food stamps in light of the reduction in benefits.

"The sooner, the better before a crisis occurs," said Jenny Nace, information specialist with the York County Area Agency on Aging.

She suggests relatives check their elderly family members' refrigerators and cupboards and to be on the lookout for weight loss.

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