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Food banks prep for surge amid end of pandemic SNAP benefits

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MANSFIELD, Texas (NewsNation) — Food banks across the county are preparing for long lines following the expiration of the emergency increase of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called the Food Stamp Program).

Benefits expired for residents of 32 states who rely on federal assistance on March 1. Seventeen states saw those benefits expire as of January 2023. South Carolina ended the emergency allotment at the start of February.

The increase was approved at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, food banks across the nation are seeing an increase in people in need.

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service was always set to send the extra benefits once the pandemic subsided, inflation has not and some food banks worry more people will go hungry. They also fear they may not be able to give as much as they have in the past.

“It’s not possible to prepare for something like this,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas.

Food banks in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia are all preparing for increased demand.

In Mansfield, Texas, a suburb 20 miles outside Ft. Worth, they’re already experiencing the surge.

“People can register, can get a card with us, and it has already increased by 35%,” said Lisa Richardson, of Harvesting in Mansfield Food Bank.

In 2021, more than 41 million Americans were using SNAP benefits to help afford food, according to the USDA. Americans who were clinging to the additional benefit doled out during the pandemic lost at least $95 per month after the emergency allotment expired.

“By the time we pay our bills, we don’t have enough for food and this really helps us get through the month,” Shery Marbut, told NewsNation while waiting in line for food. “It makes me feel terrible. I’ve never had to be in line and ask for food, and I felt so worthless. Then, I look around and people that are just like me are asking for help too.”

Between January 2022 and January 2023, food cost is up 10%, according to the latest Consumer Price Index data.

Some food banks are concerned about how they’re going to afford to feed their communities.

“We’re very concerned. We’re told June, July, and August will be the worst months. We have some financial advisors who are telling us and so we expect to trim back and start giving them less and less,” Richardson said.

“We’re anticipating an increased need for several years and we’re forecasting our food supply and donations. We are projecting that this need is going to continue,” Cole said.

Some food organizations told NewsNation they’re going to need more money in grants, government funding and donations.

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