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Food banks brace for likely sharp rise in need for food when federal pandemic help drops

Food pantry
Feeding America-West Michigan
Food pantry

Michigan food banks are preparing for an expected increase in families needing more help getting enough food.

That's because February is the last month that low income families in the U.S. will get additional checks that began during the pandemic.

Many families will see their food assistance checks cut by more than half, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Markell Miller is director of community food programs at Food Gatherers. She said her organization is doing a lot of outreach to let staff, volunteers, and families know what's ahead. She aid inflation is already hurting many families' ability to buy food.

"Neighbors that are getting SNAP benefits will see a pretty significant reduction to spend on groceries," said Miller. "So that may mean some people coming to a food pantry they haven't visited recently, or coming more frequently to stretch their grocery dollars."

Miller said her group is asking food pantry partners to prepare and have extra food on hand, to be ready for emergency situations and people running out of food unexpectedly.

The lower food assistance checks will "definitely" strain Feeding America - West Michigan's operations, according to Communication and Marketing Director Mollie Back. Feeding America - West Michigan serves food pantries in 40 Michigan counties.

Back said charitable food organizations have also been seeing food donations decline. She said in 2022, her group received 6.4% less donated food than it did pre-pandemic in 2019, and 44.2% less food from the USDA.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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