Food pantries prep for increase in visitors following expiration of SNAP benefits
New York City food pantries are gearing up for the likely increase in people visiting their centers for food after COVID-19 food stamp benefits were cut last month.
“We’re already hearing from families who are talking about how nervous they are about being able to stretch their budgets,” said Jerome Nathaniel, director of government and policy relations for City Harvest.
City Harvest currently serves around 400 pantries, and Nathaniel says that visits have jumped 75% since the start of the pandemic. They are worried their bags of food could go much quicker than usual as New Yorkers who relied on SNAP benefits to buy food are now cut off.
The extra money, called Supplemental Emergency Allotments, was done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing recipients more money for food than they were qualified for. That ended in February.
City Harvest’s warehouse delivers around 200,000 pounds of food daily, and it is actively working to make sure that it can handle increased demand.
“We’ve been around for 40 years, we’ve seen all sorts of disasters,” said Nathaniel. “We saw government shutdowns, we saw recessions, we saw Sandy, and we always found a way with our community.”
Nathaniel says City Harvest is staying optimistic ahead of the state budget, which is set to pass on April 1. The Nourish New York Program, which is part of the budget, would allow programs like City Harvest to be able to source proteins, fresh produce and more from farmers across New York state.
The state says that if you still have those emergency food funds on your EBT card, you have until the end of the year to use them.