Food Banks Noting Increasing Demand After SNAP Benefit Reductions

Food Banks Noting Increasing Demand After SNAP Benefit Reductions

With the end of SNAP emergency allotments, North Carolina hunger advocates are noting increased demand on food banks. In 2022, more than 1-point-5 million North Carolinians used SNAP benefits, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. March 1st saw the end of the pandemic-era “emergency allotments” that increased SNAP benefits across the country, with the average SNAP benefit falling back to less than 6 dollars per person per day. The most recent numbers from the U-S-D-A indicate that food prices are 8-point-5 percent higher than a year ago. These factors have hunger advocates bracing for a so-called “hunger cliff.” Barbara Morales-Burke with the Raleigh-based food bank Interfaith Food Shuttle says they have seen demand increase continuously since COVID began, but in recent months the upswing has been notable.

 “Interfaith food Shuttle saw an increase of over 5,500 people, which is 5.4% served in the month of March compared to February. This comes on the heels of an increase of over 10% of individuals who we served between January and February of this year.”

She says this is a trend they expect to continue and expand as more people feel the full impact of the end of the emergency allotments, in addition to the ongoing inflation.

Commissioners in Durham County recently voted to allocate 500-thousand dollars to support Interfaith Food Shuttle and the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina with the purchase of wholesale food. While this is not enough to cover the estimated 3-point-2 million-dollar monthly reduction in SNAP benefits, Morales-Burke is hopeful other counties will take notice.

 “The intent is to try to supplement or fill in the gap that the elimination of the emergency allotments has created. And so that’s just something that we hope other counties will take note of. And to the extent that they’re able to do that financially, it could help make a big difference.”

Interfaith Food Shuttle operates in seven counties in North Carolina as a food bank serving partner agencies such as food pantries and soup kitchens. They also combat child hunger directly with multiple programs supporting kids in area schools.

 “We have a backpack program called Backpack Buddies. Last year, over 72,000 backpacks were distributed to students, and those backpacks are provided to them on Fridays, and they’re intended to provide meals for the student to eat over the weekend.”

The Backpack Buddies program served 73 schools last year.

Interfaith Food Shuttle also sources produce from a series of community gardens and their own farming operation.

 “We’ve got a 14-acre farm where we grow a variety of types of produce, and we use that produce in part for the food that we deliver to our partner agencies, and last fiscal year we harvested over 77,000 pounds of fresh produce.”