Food Banks Under 'Immense Strain' Following End of SNAP Emergency Benefits

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  • A leading hunger charity says the end of emergency SNAP payments will create hardship for many people.
  • The end of temporary pandemic extra assistance for low-income families could leave some households with a $250 hole in their budgets.
  • Look for ways to stretch your food budget further and see if you qualify for other forms of assistance.

Some families could receive more than $250 in emergency benefits.

Millions of households received additional food benefits during the pandemic. The extra money helped low-income families keep food on the table during the uncertainty of lockdowns. It also went some way to cushion against the sky-high prices that followed, with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households receiving at least $95 in extra benefits each month.

That extra money has now come to an end, and Feeding America says the change is putting additional pressure on food banks. Its Chief Government Relations Officer, Vince Hall said the end of emergency payments will "create hardship for many people -- especially seniors, families with children and people with disabilities."

Longer lines at food pantries and soup kitchens

With a network of over 200 food banks throughout the country, Feeding America describes itself as the largest hunger relief organization in the U.S. Food banks are centers that store and supply other food programs such as food pantries and soup kitchens.

Hall explained that food banks are already under "immense strain" because of the pressures of recent years. "Many continue to see demand for food assistance well above pre-pandemic levels while also facing continued supply chain disruptions, increased food purchase and transportation costs, and a decrease in the amount of food received from donations and from the federal government," said Hall.

Along with other NGOs, Feeding America is braced for increased demand and longer lines as families feel the pinch. The emergency SNAP allotments had been issued on a state-by-state basis, and some states had already stopped making the extra payments. A federal law passed at the end of last year meant an end to all extra SNAP money nationwide.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), 35 states continued the extra payments until the end. According to the CBPP, ending those extra benefits could mean some families have significantly less in their bank accounts each month. "Every household in those states will receive at least $95 a month less," it said. "Some households, who under regular SNAP rules receive low benefits because they have somewhat higher, but still modest incomes, will see reductions of $250 a month or more."

How to handle a reduced food budget

It's an understatement to say it isn't easy if you're struggling to feed yourself or your family. If you don't have enough to eat, it impacts your physical and mental health as well as your children's ability to learn. The end of the extra payments will come as a blow for a lot of households, especially if you can't find ways to fill the hole in your budget.

Here are some ways to stretch your SNAP dollars further:

  • Look for ways to double up: There are several projects that get you two-for-one on produce at certain stores and farmers markets. The biggest is Double Up Food Bucks which gives you an extra dollar for every dollar you spend on produce. See what schemes operate near you to get healthy food that's essentially half price.
  • Use coupon and cash back apps: There are a couple of cash back apps that work with SNAP benefit payments, meaning you can get rewards on your grocery spending. If you're not already an expert coupon-er, these are another good way to cut costs. Check out coupon apps or look for physical coupons in store.
  • Find food pantries and soup kitchens: Food banks may be feeling the strain, but they are still a way to keep food on the table. Check out what programs operate near you and don't be afraid to use more than one. Show up early and find out whether you'll need to show ID or a proof of address.
  • Look for additional assistance: If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, or have young children or infants, you may be able to get extra food through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program. Seniors over the age of 60 could be eligible for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). Also see if you can get help with other bills such as utility or rent.
  • Buy in bulk: Bulk buying can be a great money saver, but it isn't always feasible if you don't have the cash upfront. See if you can split the cost and products with a friend or family member -- that way you both save money.

If you aren't sure how to feed yourself or your family, call United Way at 211 or the USDA National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY. United Way can connect you with local resources and give you information about other assistance programs.

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