DENVER, Co. — At the latter end of the year, SNAP benefits saw a monumental expansion— the biggest in the food assistance program’s history.
It came at a time where millions of people are hurting financially as the pandemic forces folks to choose between rent, heat and food. However, as we inch towards year three of the pandemic, nonprofits warn that the need isn’t going anywhere.
"It's been more than 50 years since they've evaluated the cost of food for and so a big part of that expansion was actually re-evaluating to say food prices have gone up healthy food is more expensive," said Ellie Agar of Hunger Free Colorado, an organization that hooks people up with resources for food.
What has happened is that, after looking at how food prices, especially the price of nutritious, healthy food, has risen over the decades, the Biden Administration increased SNAP benefits by 25%.
The average per-person benefit will increase from $121 per month to $157. That shakes out to be about $36 per week and about $5.50 per day.
"It's not a huge increase that actually seeing, but it was much needed," said Agar.
She says the increase is a long time coming and though modest, is a great help.
However, she worries about what will happen when some of the barriers to accessing benefits, removed because of COVID-19, are re-established.
"Because of COVID right now, every household is getting the maximum benefit and that will end when the crisis and pandemic ends emergency, but for households during the past couple of years, It's been incredible for them to have that extra resource to be able to meet that need," she said.
She says right now, they're helping about 2.5 times the amount of people that had been before the pandemic.
"There is still an increased need and we don't anticipate ever going back to those pre-pandemic numbers," she said.
Nationally, before the pandemic, 10% of households were food insecure. The pandemic increased that to 15% of households, and 18% of households with children.
Agar hopes that people who have never had to worry about hunger realizes the depth of the issue and do what they can to help.
"Look to your local community and reach out to your local food pantry or a nonprofit, and simply ask what they need. They may need volunteers, but more importantly, they might need financial donations or food donations, or simply advocating to keep these benefits in place," she said.
It won’t be another 50 years until there's another increase in snap benefits. From now on, food prices will be evaluated every five years and benefits will increase if need be.