AUSTIN, Texas (Nexstar) — As COVID-era SNAP benefit increases are set to expire after this month, more than 1 in 5 Texans are worried they or their families will not have enough to eat.
Polling from the nonprofit No Kid Hungry and Change Research shows that more than one in three adults reported at least one symptom of food insecurity in the past year, including 40% of parents.
The group is raising concerns as federal food assistance is set to decrease in March. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress increased the amount of money states could distribute to families under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Those increases are set to expire next month.
The Central Texas Food Bank is preparing for their demand to spike as more Texans become food insecure. They already serve more than 270,000 people every month.
“Families were already struggling to make ends meet prior to this. And so with the potential to lose nearly 50% of their SNAP allotment, we know that that’s going to put an additional burden,” Central Texas Food Bank CEO Sari Vatske said. “Families are going to have to make difficult choices, which we already know they’re making between food and medicine, between housing and food.”
The decrease could amount to nearly half of some families’ current benefits. For a family of four, monthly allotments could drop from the maximum of $939 to the base of $500.
All SNAP recipients will lose at least $95 in additional benefits provided under the COVID emergency allotments.
“We still have families, especially those here in Southeast Austin, who struggle with food security,” Austin City Council member Vanessa Fuentes said at the opening of the Central Texas Food Bank’s food pantry on Thursday. “For many of our families, they are struggling to make ends meet and sometimes have that tough choice of choosing between putting food on the table and paying for health care.”
No Kid Hungry’s data shows Rural Texans are impacted especially hard by food insecurity. 44% of rural respondents reported one or more symptoms of food insecurity, the largest percentage of any group. Vatske said that is always the case, as many rural Texans are further from resources like food banks.
17 states have already ended the additional emergency assistance. This month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Health and Human Services Commission to extend nearly $346 million in benefits for the final month allowed by the USDA.
“The State of Texas has been able to help millions of families across our great state access the food they need to stay healthy,” Gov. Abbott said in a press release early this month. “We’re proud to have provided billions of dollars in supplemental benefits so Texans could have healthy and nutritious food options to take care of their families and loved ones.”
His office says these benefits will help 1.6 million Texas households. Over 2.2 million households received SNAP emergency supplements in just the last two months.
The Central Texas Food Bank directs people in need to their website. They provide a list of agencies in their 21-county service area. People in need of the food pantry will need to make an appointment on the website, as well.
Health and Human Services directs Texans in need to contact the Texas Information and Referral Network (TIRN) at 211. TIRN can connect you with food pantries, housing, senior services, childcare, and cash for basic needs.
Texans can also find help at the Texas Community Partner Program and find your local food bank at Feeding Texas.
“The food bank will do everything we can to try and increase our inbound supply of food and to make sure that we can provide every Central Texan with food,” Vatske said. “But the food bank cannot do this alone. We’re really going to need the support of the community to step up.”