Expanded food stamps welcomed as millions continue to suffer

At the end of last year, SNAP Benefits have seen a massive expansion – the largest in the history of a food assistance program.

It came at a time when millions of people are suffering financial damage as the pandemic forces people to choose between rent, heating and food. However, as we approach the third year of the pandemic, nonprofits are warning that the need is not going anywhere.

“It’s been more than 50 years since they evaluated the cost of food so a big part of that expansion was actually reassessing to say food prices went up and health food prices got more expensive,” said Elie Agar of Hunger Free. Colorado, an organization that connects people to resources for food.

What happened is that after looking at how food prices, especially the prices of healthy and nutritious food, have risen over the decades, the Biden administration increased its SNAP benefits by 25%.

The average accrual per person will increase from $121 per month to $157. This comes to about $36 a week and about $5.50 a day.

It’s not a huge increase we’re actually seeing, but it was sorely needed,” Agar said.

She says the increase will come a long time ago and although it is modest, it is a huge help.

However, it is concerned about what will happen when some of the barriers to accessing benefits, which have been removed due to COVID-19, are re-established.

“Because of COVID at the moment, every family is getting the maximum benefit and that will end when the emergency crisis and pandemic are over, but for families over the past two years it has been great to have this additional resource to be able to meet this need.”

Now, she says, they are helping about 2.5 times as many people as they were before the pandemic.

“There is still a growing need and we do not expect a return to those pre-epidemic figures,” she said.

Nationally, prior to the pandemic, 10% of households were food insecure. The epidemic increased this percentage to 15% of families, and 18% of families with children.

Agar hopes that people who have never had to worry about hunger will realize the depth of the problem and do what they can to help.

“Look into your local community and reach out to your local food pantry or nonprofit, and simply ask what they need. They may need volunteers, but more importantly they may need financial or food donations, or simply advocate for the retention of these benefits,” she said.

It won’t be another 50 years until there’s another surge in surprising benefits. From now on, food prices will be assessed every five years and benefits will increase if necessary.

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