GREENSBORO, N.C. — Starting Oct. 1, food stamp recipients will get 25% more in their monthly payments and local food banks said the benefits increased during the pandemic has reduced the need for their services.
“They’ll be able to go to the grocery store and purchase more items, which means that there’s less of a need for us," said Larry Jamerson, the operations manager at the Blessed Table food pantry in Greensboro.
Jamerson said they've seen a decline in people seeking food during the pandemic, due to an increase in SNAP benefits and various food giveaways.
"When the additional unemployment (benefits) ran out, we started to see increases among our partners," said Eric Aft, the CEO of Second Harvest Foodbank of Northwest North Carolina in Winston-Salem. "And that has really continued over the last couple of weeks since those benefits have ended."
The permanent 25% increase in SNAP benefits coincides with the expiration of the temporary 15% increase put in place during the pandemic on Sept. 30.
"We've been preparing for this for quite a while, knowing that once these benefits programs ended, we would see an increase in need," said Aft.
The permanent increase is the single largest in the program's history. It will bring the average monthly amount from $121 to $157.
"Having enough nutritious food every day is an essential part of health and well-being," said NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary for Opportunity and Well-Being Susan Gale Perry. "Too many of our fellow North Carolinians suffer from food insecurity. This will help hundreds of thousands of North Carolina families — many with young children — keep nutritious food on the table."
Jamerson said he hopes people still see The Blessed Table as a resource and come if they still need help.
"I know several pantries have decided to close because they had no patronage," said Jamerson. "We’ve been fortunate in that we have had patronage but it’s not at the level would love for it to be.”
Second Harvest Food Bank said they too have seen ups and downs in demand throughout the pandemic, especially with different government assistance programs.
"Folks may be surprised to know that for every meal we provide, SNAP provides nine meals to community members," said Aft. "So the increase (...) is going to help. It's certainly not going to help fill the entire gap but it's going to be a very meaningful part of the puzzle."