Ohio Food Banks Overwhelmed One Year After Emergency SNAP Benefits End

From April through September of last year, pantries served around 1.3 million people a month, up 60% from before the pandemic.

One of the many Muni Lot distributions during the pandemic years - Greater Cleveland Food Bank
Greater Cleveland Food Bank
One of the many Muni Lot distributions during the pandemic years
One year after emergency SNAP benefits ended, Ohio food banks said they are struggling with increased grocery costs and record-high numbers of families turning to food pantries for help.

Since the start of the pandemic, households had been receiving on average $90 more per person, per month in SNAP benefits.

Joree Novotny, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, explained Ohioans lost $126 million between this March and last, when the expanded benefits expired. She emphasized food banks now are overwhelmed trying to meet the needs of families facing pressure from inflation, resumed student loan payments and higher costs for utilities and rent.

"They have been turning to us, for month over month, for more than a year, at a level that we've never experienced before," Novotny reported. "That is very difficult for us to continue to sustain."

From April through September of last year, pantries served around 1.3 million people a month, up 60% from before the pandemic.

According to an Ohio Association of Foodbanks survey, more than three in four SNAP households said since the end of expanded SNAP, their household's food benefits are completely used up within the first two weeks of the month.

The Farm Bill, a package of legislation to reauthorize most of the nation's agriculture and nutrition programs, including SNAP, expired last fall. Congress has yet to pass a new version. Novotny stressed advocates are pushing for a SNAP program in the next Farm Bill, flexible and robust enough to help keep families afloat, along with the farmers who depend on the bill's Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program, and a strong Emergency Food Assistance Program.

"We can't absorb any more losses in SNAP benefits," Novotny contended. "We need, first and foremost, a really strong SNAP program protected in this Farm Bill."

According to a recent survey, 90% of respondents said their basic monthly food purchases cost more now than a year ago. The number of people who said they skipped meals, ate less, or relied on family and friends for food in the last month rose between 2% and 4%.

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