Additional federal funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) ended on March 31 — and now SNAP benefits are back to the record amount.
The additional funding, which began in the spring of 2020, was intended to help people who have been out of work and struggling with income during the pandemic. Despite the apparent end of the pandemic, many families are still struggling to put food on the table — especially as the cost of goods has skyrocketed, advocates say.
PrismInc., an organization with a food rack in Golden Valley, is raising money to support members of its community with the end of fringe benefits.
On average, households will receive at least $95 a month, according to the nonpartisan Institute for Research and Policy. Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Some families, who under normal SNAP rules get reduced benefits because their income is somewhat higher but still modest, will reduce their benefits by $250 per month or more, according to the institute. estimated.
Who uses SNAP?
About 42 million Americans receive SNAP benefits, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2022, it has helped 435,900 Minnesota residents or 8% of the state’s population.
In the last quarter of 2021, emergency benefits kept 4.2 million people above the poverty line and reduced poverty by 10%, one study is found. The estimated decline in poverty rates was highest among blacks and Latinos.
And according to the USDA, seventy-nine percent of Minnesota families who received benefits in 2020 had incomes at or below the poverty line.
“When we think about changes to SNAP benefits, it’s basically going to lower people’s grocery budgets at a time when food prices are higher than ever,” said Sarah Moberg, chief operating officer of Second Harvest Heartland. “This is just another blow to people who may already be suffering.”
High demand and high costs
Michelle Ness, executive director of the shelf, said Prism is struggling to keep up with the rising cost of goods, as demand for the food shelf is growing.
Ness predicts that as SNAP benefits reduce, more people will look to food shelves, since food prices are high at grocery stores.
Second Harvest Heartland agrees that demand for food shelves will rise as a result. The organization buys food in bulk and sends it to about 400 partner agencies in Minnesota, who then use that to supply various hunger relief programs. Moberg said pounds distributed from food are up 15% compared to last year.
Over the past few weeks, some of the organization’s partners have seen a 30% to 50% increase in visits, according to Moberg.
Nice said PRISM has about 100-150 families visiting per day and an average of 2,200 each month. Their numbers have been growing annually – just last year, they saw a 69% increase in visits. Every month, Ness says, PRISM sees 200 new people.
At the same time, the purchase costs of food racks and organizations such as Second Harvest Heartland have also increased.
Our costs have gone up. Just like consumer prices, when they go up, food banks have the same experience. Across the board, what we’re seeing is, on average, prices are about 20% higher than last year for the foods we need to buy.”
Milk, for example, is up 30 cents on the dollar, she said, while demand for it on food shelves is up 40%.
Donations through food rescue programs have also declined. PRISM gets about 40% less in food salvage items.
“It might be deli items and bread and all sorts of things that are close to their expiration date and groceries, they don’t wait until then, they rotate inventory; that was a lot we would give families.”
Ness said the organization spends about $35,000 a month to keep the food rack stocked.
how can I help?
PRISM is currently raising funds for the year at the state level Minnesota FoodShare Campaign March, which runs until April 9. Its goal is to raise $300,000 in combined funds and pounds sterling.
So far, they’ve seen fewer donations compared to the pre-pandemic years. Last year, it recorded a 37% decrease in food donations.
Food shelves often prefer monetary donations to food because they can buy more fresh items, buy in bulk, and tend their inventory according to different needs and demographics, Ness said. But food donations are also appreciated, especially items like beans, peanut butter, salmon or tuna, rice, pasta, and cereal. Prism’s fund was valued at about $150,000 USD at the end of March.
“We just need to keep it stocked. More people come in, less donations, and then food costs more and more. It’s kind of a triple whammy,” Ness said. “Our job then is fundraising, to let people in the community know what we’re doing.”