As discussed in the July GLC newsletter, Food Independence, and other food/feeding programs, saw huge increases in client numbers last Spring, usually our slow season. Demand levelled off this summer but remains far above past years. What caused this surge in demand? Most publicized was the end of Covid supplements to SNAP (formerly called food stamps). Households receiving SNAP saw benefits reduced by an average of over $1,100 per year when Covid supplements were eliminated. Covid-related programs should logically end with the pandemic but, after three years, it had become part of household food budgets. Logical to end it but challenging if you depended on it for three years, as food prices rose.
If ending Covid-era SNAP supplements was the only post-Covid change, it would have been challenging but probably manageable. That wasn’t all. Inflation increased the cost of nearly everything, including rent, utilities, fuel, medicine, etc., by about 20% during the same period. Food prices rose more than 20%. Wages/income also rose during/after Covid which should have helped but since SNAP and other assistance programs are income based, the opposite often happened. Many households saw SNAP reduced or eliminated due to increases in income. Those increases were typically far less than the Covid SNAP supplement and almost always less than the supplement plus inflation. Substantial increases in Social Security benefits the last two years reduced or eliminated benefits for many senior SNAP recipients. While it is again logical to reduce benefits as income increases, Social Security increases rarely offset the loss of SNAP supplements and certainly did not keep up with inflation.
We don’t have much experience with global pandemics, and don’t want any more! Food insecure households may have fared better under “covid-era programs” than they do now. Figuring out how to end those programs in combination with other economic impacts, like inflation, has proven challenging. Food Independence does not get into policy or political discussions so we will not offer solutions here. What we can say, with certainty, is that the end of covid-era programs, in combination with other economic factors, has made it more challenging for the food insecure. It has also increased demand, costs, and most importantly, need, for food assistance programs like Food Independence. Our goal, and plan, is to meet that need!