Julie Butner has been bracing for the day when federal food benefits go back to pre-pandemic levels.
That day is here.
“I don’t think we fully realize the impact that it’s going to have on us as a food bank and certainly on the community,” Butner, president and CEO of Tarrant Area Food Bank, said.
Food banks across Tarrant County expect an increase in demand after the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits decreased March 1. Now, food banks are unsure if they can meet the needs of those who struggle to put food on the table.
The Tarrant Area Food Bank expects 140,000 families in its service area will be impacted, according to an email statement. North Texas Food Bank expects 500,000 individuals across the region to be impacted, Jeff Smith, North Texas Food Bank’s Senior Manager of Communications, said.
SNAP-receiving households will see roughly a $212 drop in their monthly benefits, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Butner emphasized that the U.S. is in a transition period between the COVID-19 pandemic and a struggling economy.
“I understand that the government is trying to move away from COVID support systems,” she said. “But, unfortunately, we have not seen food inflation like we’re seeing today in our history.”
Average prices of groceries rose 0.4% in January from December. Bakery and dairy products have seen the highest 12-month percent change, according to the latest consumer price index, which tracks the monthly average price of goods.
Families couldn’t rely on the traditionally low-cost eggs anymore because of inflation, Butner said.
“It’s just really concerning,” Butner said.
The number of people currently seeking food assistance from the Tarrant Area Food Bank is at the same level the organization saw at the height of the pandemic, Butner said.
North Texas Food Bank has been working with roughly 400 feeding partners across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to support the group’s efforts in managing the loss of emergency food benefits, said Smith, the spokesperson.
“Although food banks cannot make up for a loss of this magnitude, we will do everything we can,” Smith said.
Congress increased SNAP benefits in 2020 because of the pandemic. The decision allowed states to give all recipients the maximum dollar amount per family size through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Texas is one of the remaining 35 states to lose the increased food benefits. The other 15 states lost the extra benefits late last year.
Butner is ready to help North Texas families who are in need of food, but food banks can only do so much alone, she said.
“We’re gearing up for it, but we can only give what we get,” Butner said. “We’re at the mercy of our donations.”
Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.