FENNIMORE, Wis. — With he and his wife set to see their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits drop by around $280 this month — nearly half of their February allowance — Terry Roesch did the pragmatic thing.
He went out and bagged a deer.
The kill would give them meat for the next four months, he estimated. Besides that, the couple were paring down their shopping list to the essentials and planning to minimize trips to the grocery store.
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“It got us heavy, because I only receive about $380 per month (in Social Security benefits),” said Connie Roesch, 73, who is retired. The couple already had been hit hard this winter by the increased cost of the propane they used to heat their home, she said.
The Roesches are one of the estimated 1,775 households in Grant County and the nearly 1 million more across Wisconsin and Illinois who receive SNAP benefits, per the latest U.S. Census Bureau data. Those households will see a reduction in those benefits this month, after a COVID-19 pandemic-era boost to the federal program ended in February. Iowa allowed its expanded SNAP benefits to expire last year.
The move comes amid high food prices that already have driven more families to cut back on trips to the grocery store and to visit food pantries more often, with pantries expecting another surge in demand as SNAP recipients see their benefits drop in March.
Food costs continue to be a principal driver of inflation, with grocery bills increasing by 10.2% year-over-year in February, per the Consumer Price Index. The same month, 8.9% of households in Wisconsin and 14.1% in Illinois reported not having enough to eat during a seven-day period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
Households receiving SNAP in states that had not previously ended the expanded benefits are expected to receive at least $95 less this month, though some could see reductions of $250 per month or more, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
With most SNAP households making 130% or less of the federal poverty measure, the reduction is expected to increase food hardship for some of the lowest-income families in the country, the center said.
For Blythe Brown, who on Tuesday visited the Lions Club Food Pantry in East Dubuque, Ill., the drop in monthly benefits for her and her school-aged son from $374 to $143 meant more driving during the week.
“I’ve got to go through three more food banks,” Brown said. “And then I got to come up with the gas to get to the food banks and get him in school.”
She particularly was upset about the impact it would have on her son, who has Type 1 diabetes.
“He needs to eat healthy, but how can he eat healthy if you can’t even feed him?” she asked.
Ben Andersen, co-chair of the Lions Club pantry, said the pantry distributed an average of 800 pounds of food per month from October to December, up from 500 pounds of food from July to September. The number of families it served doubled over the last three months of 2022.
Some 781 households received SNAP benefits in Jo Daviess County, Ill., in 2021, per the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-year estimates.
Nancy Renkes is CEO and president of River Bend Food Bank, which supplies Jo Daviess County’s food pantries.
She said the food bank expected to see a 12% to 15% increase in demand for its services beginning this week, as SNAP beneficiaries see the drop in their benefits and shift more of their shopping to food pantries.
“We know for families who are already struggling, this is going to be a tough transition for them because this is a permanent reduction,” Renkes said.
She compared it to Iowa’s decision to end the expanded pandemic SNAP benefits last year, which she said drove up demand on the food bank by 22%.
Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin also expects an increase in demand across the 300-odd pantries it serves. Director of Marketing and Communications Kris Tazelaar noted the food bank already was seeing distribution levels on par with the first year of the pandemic, when it distributed some 22 million pounds of food from July 2020 to June 2021.
“The reality is, people need to go someplace to get their resources, and we’re anticipating they will go to our partner agencies,” Tazelaar said.
The end of additional SNAP benefits also comes as pantries observe declines in U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities, which help supply food pantries alongside food banks and local donations.
Ronda Christensen, of Southwest Wisconsin Community Action Program, said the agency’s food pantries and its affiliates were reporting declines in available commodities.
Can these right wing Republicans get any more cruel, shame on them
Just like a liberal, always blame the other side
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