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As COVID Era Benefits Come To An End, Food Banks Line Grows

Due to the rising inflation and prices of groceries, food banks’ demand is going to surge in the next few years.

May 25, 2023

Dee Jones, leaning on her rolling walker outside the Auburn Food Bank, couldn’t believe she was in this situation again. Her monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits had been reduced at the end of February when the federal government discontinued the boosted payments earlier designed to assist low-income households cope with the financial strains of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As food prices rise and the threat of an economic recession looms, food banks are witnessing a surge in demand in the greater Seattle area and across the nation. Working families and individuals on fixed incomes, like Jones, are seeking help to stock their refrigerators and pantries.

It’s been years since Jones had not visited a food bank but had no other choice left as her monthly food assistance slashed to approximately $150. With this amount and rising inflation these days, she can only afford food for only a week.

“When I was receiving the increased benefits during the pandemic, I was doing well and didn’t have to come here,” Jones expressed her frustration. “Why would they take that away from us when it was helping?”

There are around 522,200 households in Washington who are heavily dependent on SNAP benefits widely known as food stamps.

Usually, food assistance amounts are determined based on annual income and household size. However, all households received the maximum eligible amount based on size alone during the pandemic, which in turn led to an additional $95 or more per month.

According to the state Department of Social and Health Services, the households experienced an average reduction of about $105 per person in March due to the lack of emergency allotments.

Food banks in the Seattle region witnessed a surge in visitors. The Asian Counseling and Referral Service Food Bank in the Chinatown International District reported an increase in visitors in March and anticipated a further uptick due to the expected economic downturn.

“We’re starting to serve a new population of working poor folks who are needing to make ends meet and balance their budget,” stated Kathy Ulrich, development director at the Rainier Valley Food Bank. “Providing one or two bags of fresh, balanced food takes a lot of pressure off their household budget.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the food prices in the Seattle region have risen by 8%, with cereals and baked goods increasing by 9.3% and milk and cheese rising by 11.6%. Compared to the pandemic, the average food assistance payments to households are higher now.

Around 98,000 households received SNAP benefits, with an average monthly benefit of $123 per person in February 2020 in King County. Overall, SNAP benefits are on average 45% higher per household compared to pre-pandemic levels, reveals the state.

However, SNAP recipients are feeling the strain as the pandemic-era assistance comes to an end. Families that used to get around $200 per month are now getting only $16 per month.
Since 2019, the food bank has served the highest number of people in a day after the organization allowed three visits in a month. Even the people like Jones who have not visited the food bank in years are visiting the food banks now.

It is not only individuals but also food banks who are affected by the rising costs of groceries. Food banks across the region are bracing for the potential recession along with the end of covid-19 relief funding and lack of private donations.

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The content provided in this article draws inspiration and includes quotes from various reputable sources, including news articles, government data, and interviews. Affordable Housing 411 strives to ensure accuracy and credibility, but the information presented may be based on some external sources. We encourage readers to refer to the referenced materials for more in-depth insights and verification.

Hendricks Yoon Alexandra. “WA food bank lines grow as COVID-era benefits end, grocery prices rise”. TheSeattleTimes, May 25, 2023,
WA food bank lines grow as COVID-era benefits end, grocery prices rise | The Seattle Times

Last Updated: September 20, 2021