Utah Food Bank expects increased demand as boost to food stamps ends
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Food Bank is gearing up for more demand for assistance after boosted food stamp benefits ended in February.
At the beginning of the pandemic, those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, benefits started receiving an extra payment at the end of each month.
“February 26th was that last emergency allotment,” said Nate McDonald, deputy director at the Utah Department of Workforce Services. “During the pandemic this was a great help for families.”
The change impacts all of the 74,000 Utah households that receive SNAP benefits. The now-expired monthly increase averaged between $175 to $200 per Utah household. McDonald said everything else about SNAP stays the same, including eligibility guidelines.
“We want to make sure that no one is confused: they will still be receiving their normal SNAP benefit,” he said. “That is not changing.”
The president of the Utah Food Bank said she expects visits to local food pantries to increase now that the extra food stamps payments have stopped.
“It’s different for every family as to how quickly they will feel that change,” said Ginette Bott. “For some families it will be immediate, others it will take them a few weeks.”
She said the additional need comes on top of the additional demand that food pantries are already experiencing.
“Pantries in the Utah County area, they’re up over 60%” Bott said. ”This is just normal, day-to-day. Now, when we put on top of that and compound the situation with fewer dollars coming to them as a benefit, those numbers are going to continue to skyrocket.”
The worry is that the additional food stamp benefits were helping families manage higher grocery store bills due to inflation.
“Just having the very basics that you need be so expensive so quickly, it’s taken a huge toll and families are struggling to bounce back,” Bott said.
Bott encouraged residents to participate in the upcoming Feed Utah food drive on Saturday, March 18. During the statewide food drive residents are asked to place nonperishable food donations outside their door by 9 a.m.
Click here to visit the Feed Utah website.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services is reminding Utahns struggling with housing and food bills that other programs are available, including energy and water assistance through the Home Energy Assistant Target, or HEAT, program.
“That’s a program that can help you out with some of your utility bills,” McDonald said. “Free up money there and help you with some of your food costs.”
Other programs include employment assistance, education assistance and food assistance.
Those who need further help are encouraged to contact their local community action office or call 211 for information about assistance programs.
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