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It's Unclear What The SNAP Benefits Increase Means For Food Pantry Traffic

SNAP recipients may seek more help from food pantries if their benefits are reduced.

The Biden Administration is giving a historic, permanent boost to the amount of money people get each month through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but the effect that will have on food pantries is still unclear. 

Des Moines Area Religious Council saw a boost in the number of people using its 14 partner food pantries during the pandemic, but as time went on, people started coming less often. DMARC’s Luke Elzinga said people have been getting a lot more money for food through pandemic emergency increases to the SNAP Program.

“When people have the money to spend at the grocery store on their food, they’re less likely to come to a food pantry,” Elzinga said.

Those emergency benefits are temporary, but starting in October, the average SNAP benefits per person will increase by more than $36 per month.

“It was a sorely needed increase,” Elzinga said. “We’ve needed it for years.”

Elzinga said some people will have more money to spend and might skip the food pantry, but others will get less SNAP money than they’ve been getting through emergency benefits.

“They’re going to be needing to fill that gap somehow,” Elzinga said. “And a lot of them were previously using food pantries to do so, so we expect that they will return.”

The SNAP increase begins Oct. 1. 
Copyright 2021 Harvest Public Media.

Katie Peikes