FRAC's COVID-19 Updates Check out FRAC's COVID-19 page for updates and resources. On April 22 join FRAC, our national partners, and other advocates for a Day of Action urging Congress and the Administration to boost SNAP benefits and help families put food on the table during COVID-19.
Feeding the hungry and saving farms, The Boston Globe, April 17, 2020 Many farmers are facing a challenge with the coronavirus since their farm productions are scaled for restaurant kitchens, and, with so many restaurants closing, the food that would have been purchased for industrial kitchens is going to waste. Catherine D’Amato, president of the Greater Boston Food Bank, said the organization has offered to contract for crops in advance. While food banks are serving a vital need at the moment, the long-term need could increase with the rise in unemployment. “One of the things we know is that charity can’t do it by themselves,” said Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center in Washington, which is pushing for a 15 percent increase in the maximum food-stamp benefit.
230,000 Texas families filed for SNAP food assistance in March, twice as many as same month last year, The Texas Tribune, April 13, 2020 In March, Texas received 230,809 applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), up from 114,008 during the same month last year, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Rachel Cooper, a senior policy analyst with the Austin-based think tank Center for Public Policy Priorities, suggests that April numbers will be more reflective of the actual income impact for the state because it wasn’t until the end of March that the SNAP application process was simplified. In March, Texas Governor Greg Abbot sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking SNAP recipients to be allowed to use their benefits at takeout and drive-thru restaurants. USDA has yet to announce a decision on Abbott’s request.
Virginia senators urge USDA to approve request for SNAP online pilot program, WHSV, April 14, 2020 Virginia’s Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, wrote a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, asking him to approve the online purchasing of food by SNAP participants: “To ensure the health and safety of SNAP beneficiaries in the Commonwealth, we urge USDA to work with the Virginia Department of Social Services to approve Virginia’s request to participate in the Department’s SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot as quickly as possible.” Senators Warner and Kaine were also among the senators who asked USDA to waive the requirement for parents to accompany children receiving meals at school meal distribution sites.
‘We may have to ration’: US food banks face shortages as demand surges, The Guardian, April 17, 2020 Food banks across the country are seeing a surge in people lining up for food, and federal relief packages have yet to address food assistance. The rescue packages did expand SNAP, but USDA has so far refused to fully extend eligibility using available disaster powers. “This would help tackle hunger and stimulate the economy, but for some reason the USDA isn’t using all the tools in its box,” said Ellen Vollinger, FRAC’s legal director.
Need for food stamps spikes during pandemic; applications ‘way more than double’ for SNAP benefits, Oklahoma DHS says, Tulsa World News, April 15, 2020 In Oklahoma, the average number of daily applications for food assistance programs was 508 between January 1 and March 15. Since March 16, applications are averaging 1,401 and most of those applications were for SNAP. That is according to Patrick Klein, the director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. While the maximum SNAP benefit for a single person is $194 and for a family of four is $646, those maximums could change with the approval of Oklahoma’s waivers from USDA. Those seeking assistance can go to OKDHSLive.org and the benefits application process can be completed using a mobile device.
Lawmaker pushes for Missouri food stamp clients to buy online, Boonville Daily News, April 15, 2020 “You know, we’re telling people across the nation to stay at home and social distance, but yet barriers are in place for people on supplemental nutrition programs where they are, you know, forced to go into the actual stores and make the purchases,” Representative Kip Kendrick of Missouri said. “And it just puts more people at risk.” Meanwhile, at the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri, there has been an increase in need since the start of the pandemic, according to their spokesman Seth Wolfmeyer. The food bank has been struggling to keep up with demand because as need increases, they are having a hard time maintaining a stock of shelf-stable items.
COVID-19: School Meals
Pandemic Food Benefits: Only 2 States Approved to Date, Forbes, April 15, 2020 In the Families First Coronavirus Act, a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program was approved that would provide additional money for households where children were enrolled in federal nutrition programs at school. In order to implement P-EBT, states need to apply to USDA in order to receive approval. Of the nine states that applied, only two — Michigan and Rhode Island — have been approved. Unfortunately, state offices that administer SNAP benefits are “struggling to respond to the growing number of families and individuals who are becoming eligible for SNAP benefits,” which could lead to these offices becoming overwhelmed if they do not carefully plan for the implementation of P-EBT, accordingto the Food Research & Action Center.
Schools Transform Into ‘Relief’ Kitchens, but Federal Aid Fails to Keep Up, The New York Times, April 19, 2020 With the school closures in response to COVID-19, many school kitchens are continuing to serve meals. However, the schools participating in the school meals programs only receive the partial reimbursement from the federal government for feeding low-income children, and some schools are seeing adults line up for meals as well. Another challenge is that the meals programs are supposed to feed low-income children at the reduced rate, but some states, such as Mississippi and Massachusetts, are receiving waivers from USDA to no longer require proof of income to receive meals. “We are hoping for a nationwide waiver because those waivers are not consistent across states,” said Crystal W. FitzSimons, the director of in-school and out-of-school programs at the Food Research & Action Center.
COVID-19: Older Adults
Older Americans face food crisis during COVID-19, National Journal, April 13, 2020 As many are advocating to increase SNAP benefits in upcoming congressional relief packages, some argue that that may not be enough for older Americans. “Even before the pandemic, we saw millions of older adults struggling to put food on the table,” said Alexandra Ashbrook, director of special projects and initiatives at the Food Research & Action Center, which advocates for policies to reduce poverty-related hunger and malnutrition. Six states are currently piloting an online purchasing program for SNAP recipients, and more states could benefit from such waivers.
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