Pittsburgh food bank prepared to step up when emergency SNAP benefits stop

PITTSBURGH — The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is preparing for a surge in demand next month when the emergency allotments in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits tied to the COVID-19 pandemic come to an end.

Most knew the extra SNAP benefits would be going away, but some say the timing of this couldn’t be worse.

“It comes at a time when families are struggling with inflation, heating cost(s), families are struggling to make ends meet,” said Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank Community Connections and Collaborative Learning Director Chris West. “It’s a tough time to be losing funds.”

Families started receiving a 15% boost in monthly SNAP benefits during the pandemic. Instead of one payment for groceries a month, they got two. That stops in March, which means recipients will see at least $95 less a month for food.

West says there’s about 350,000 receiving SNAP benefits in our region.

“In the last year, we’ve had seniors calling us, and they’re telling us they’re skipping doctors appointments,” said West. “You know because it’s about those choices. Do I put enough food on the table? Do I pay my heating bill? Do I pay rent? It’s all those things and often people don’t have enough funds, and they have to make those impossible choices. We do expect with this emergency allotment payment ending that folks are going to have to make those tough choices, but we’re here to help as much as we can to get people food assistance and resources beyond food to make it as easy as possible and make sure their needs are met.”

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is prepared to help.

“We do expect more people coming to pantries,” said West. “More people coming to the market. More phone calls, but we’re ready to handle all that.”

With this increase in demand for services, the need for volunteers and food donations also goes up.

“We’re confident that the community will step up just like they did when the pandemic started and that’s going to allow us to meet an increased need,” said West.

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank received about 1,600 calls on average a month since July. They’re expected that number to spike next month. More information can be found at https://pittsburghfoodbank.org.

Comments on this article