TEMPORARY PANDEMIC SNAP BENEFITS END – MARCH 10
Author: Eric Williams
SNAP benefits provide nine times as many meals to Americans as does the private charitable food network. So, when SNAP benefits are reduced, many of our friends and neighbors turn to their local food banks and pantries, which today are facing need that in many cases already outstrips their supplies.
SNAP is the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as food stamps, and Second Harvest is one modest piece of our nation’s private hunger relief network. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Congress passed various aid packages; among the emergency allocations were substantial increases in SNAP benefit levels. With the pandemic mostly, if not completely in our rearview mirror, those emergency allocations expired Feb. 1 in Idaho and March 1 in Washington.
At Serve Spokane, Co-Executive Director Cathy Del Pizzo and her colleagues encounter the realities of increased need on a regular basis. “We see people coming to us for help who, in the past, would have been our donors,” Cathy said. “They often come to us in tears because they never expected to need a food pantry, and we are able to comfort them, encourage them and help them to stretch their budgets.”
SNAP isn’t going away, but the emergency allotments are. So benefits are falling by an average of $223 per month for families with children, and an average of $168 for households with seniors.
At the Sozo Food Bank in Kennewick, “Money is very tight, and they are needing to make harder choices with rent versus food,” Director of Operations Michelle Schmidt says of those accessing Sozo’s services. “We can help them two times per month, which allows them to divert funds for bills.”
Sozo and Serve Spokane are two key parts of our network and are representative of hardworking employees and volunteers who are doing everything they can to get food to hungry people. That’s particularly difficult now, with food supplies on the wane. At Second Harvest, our stocks are down about one-third, and two other large food banks in Washington recently reported their inventories are down 80% compared to this time last year.
If you would like to donate to a food pantry in your community, please visit foodfinder.2-harvest.org to find a location near you.
To learn more about SNAP, please visit fns.usda.gov/snap/applicant-recipient.