[Madison Moore | WOUB]

‘We expect the impact to be huge’: Additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits end for Ohioans

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – The emergency SNAP allotments that have been helping many families across Southeast Ohio ended March 1st, leaving local food assistance programs bracing for a spike in demand.

Athens County Job and Family Services Executive Director Jean Demoksy said, “We are worried. And we have been bracing for the impact of this change.” 

SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The program was formerly called food stamps.

The allotments, which began in March 2020, provided much-needed assistance for those struggling to put food on the table. 

Congress passed legislation in December that set emergency allotments nationwide to end after their last issuance in February. Benefits have now been reduced to their normal amounts.

The size and income of each household affected the precise amount of their emergency allotment.

For example, a single Ohioan who received the minimum amount of $23 a month received the maximum $281 in assistance in emergency benefits.

In Athens County, the expansion provided much-needed relief to over 5,000 households. 

Southeast Ohio Food Bank Director of Development Eva Bloom said, “We estimate that $4.5 million dollars a month will be coming out of these counties in terms of these emergency allotments.”

Local organizations and food banks in the area are worried about residents skipping meals.

“There are also folks who feel like there’s somebody else that needs it more than they do. And they want to make sure their neighbor, who might be facing a tougher situation, has access to that food,” said Bloom.

She added that SNAP recipients now face the challenge of their benefits decreasing while food prices go up.

“This is not a secret for anyone. We have all been to the grocery store and realized that we’re paying 10 or 20% more for the things that we used to buy. So families and individuals are going to be in a really difficult situation,” said Bloom. 

A woman shopping in Seaman's grocery store
A woman shopping in Seaman’s grocery store on March 9th. [Madison Moore | WOUB]
Demosky said JFS and the Athens County Food Pantry are ramping up Operation Full Belly, a program which provides bags of emergency food, resource lists and food recipes for local residents. A person does not have to qualify for SNAP to receive this extra assistance.

“Operation Full Belly is unlimited. So if you need one this week, and you need to come back next week, you’ll get another one next week,” said Demosky. “One bag contains enough food for four people for about four days.”

Bloom said, “We expect local pantries will be seeing more families come to their doors, some families who have never been there, some families who may need to seek resources more often.” 

“The Southeast Ohio Food Bank primarily supplies a network of 70 member food pantries and meal providers,” she said. “So that is really the frontline for folks who need food assistance.” 

The food bank is open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Hocking County for anyone who needs emergency food assistance.

Demosky encouraged SNAP recipients to ask for help. 

“We are there for anyone who is in need. It’s our mission, it’s our whole reason for existence. So we want to help as many people as possible,” Demosky said.

Ohio SNAP recipients are encouraged to visit hapcap.org to locate a nearby pantry or obtain an Operation Full Belly bag if they need extra food assistance.