FRAC’s COVID-19 Updates Check out FRAC's COVID-19 page for updates, statements, and resources on actions to address the food security, public health, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 emergency.
COVID-19: Online Purchasing Pilot
For Most Food Stamp Users, Online Shopping Isn’t an Option, The New York Times, May 1, 2020 As many people use online shopping to avoid grocery stores during the pandemic, this option is not available to many receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). A pilot program for SNAP online purchasing is available in nine states, and another seven states plus Washington, D.C. have signed up but are not yet operational. Ellen Vollinger, legal director at the Food Research & Action Center, said it was important for SNAP recipients to be on “equal footing” with other customers, and suggested that the pilot program was just one way the government could help them maintain social distancing.
Maryland to receive $49 million in federal funding to offset cost of student meals while schools are closed, Baltimore Sun, April 29, 2020 In Maryland, nearly half of the state’s students are eligible for Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits, a monthly benefit that will provide $5.70 per day per child to families who were enrolled in school meals programs. “While local school districts and agencies are distributing meals at over 600 emergency sites across the state, this additional P-EBT benefit will help sustain students and their families through the COVID-19 pandemic crisis,” Schools Superintendent Karen Salmon said.
States Are Embracing Extra Funds from Pandemic EBT to Cover Missing School Meals, Civil Eats, May 4, 2020 Fourteen states have been approved for P-EBT while around 20 more have submitted plans to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to Crystal FitzSimons, director of school and out-of-school time programs for the Food Research & Action Center, “States have different data systems. For some states it’s easier to identify all the kids in the state who receive free and reduced price-meals and for others, it’s more of a lift.”
COVID-19: Restaurant Meal Program
As Jobless Claims Soar, More Restaurants Might Finally Be Able to Accept SNAP Benefits, Eater, April 28, 2020 In the 1970s, the SNAP Restaurant Meal Program was created to allow SNAP recipients unable to cook the ability to purchase food from restaurants with their SNAP benefits. Today, Senator Chris Murphy (CT) and Representative Jimmy Panetta (CA) are looking to expand the program beyond the three states that initially opted in to the program. Jessica Bartholow, an advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, pointed out “this is a private-public partnership that works. We have food rotting in restaurants and workers that want to work and can’t.”
Congressman Panetta, Senator Murphy Announce Legislation To Expand Access To Restaurant Meals Program Amid COVID-19, Public, April 28, 2020 “We must leverage the capacity of the hard-hit restaurant sector to provide meals for purchase with SNAP benefits. This is a key piece of the food system puzzle that can ensure food security and bolster demand from a supply chain that has been hit hard as a result of the pandemic. Moreover, each $1 in SNAP benefits generates between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity. We need more access points for SNAP consumers to obtain their food. This is essential for public health as well as for economic recovery,” said Luis Guardia, President of the Food Research & Action Center.
$36M Awarded for NJ Food Stamps, Cape May County Herald, April 28, 2020 SNAP serves 674,000 New Jersey residents, and those recipients will see an increase to the maximum benefit based on family size. In addition, New Jersey Human Services received federal approval to extend SNAP recertification periods for cases that were set to expire in March, April, and May.
Kathy Webb: SNAP Works, Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, April 30, 2020 According to the Food Research & Action Center, boosting the maximum SNAP benefit during the 2009–2013 recession resulted in an economic benefit of $1.50–$1.80 generated for every dollar of new SNAP benefits. The impact of this increased spending by SNAP households “multiplies” throughout the economy, as the businesses supplying food and other goods, as well as employees, have additional funds to make purchases of their own, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains.
COVID-19: Food Insecurity
Coronavirus: Demand for food assistance doubles in Minnesota, Bring Me the News, April 27, 2020 In Minnesota, the Second Harvest Heartland food bank saw a 96 percent increase in SNAP referrals and a 138 percent increase in submitted applications. “The reality is that Minnesota’s emergency food system is not robust enough to keep our neighbors fed, especially during this challenging time,” Second Harvest Heartland CEO Allison O’Toole said in the statement. “Our SNAP outreach team is working harder than ever to ensure every Minnesotan who needs food assistance — many of whom have never had to navigate this system before — gets it.”
More Than One in Five US Adults Experienced Food Insecurity in the Early Weeks of the Pandemic, Urban Institute, April 28, 2020 According to a survey and report out of the Urban Institute, 30.6 percent of adults reported spending less on food as a result of the pandemic between March 25 and April 10. In addition to exploring the higher risk of food insecurity for Hispanic and Black adults, and how families can stay fed during this time, the author warns of the health impacts for those who cannot afford to go to the grocery store.
Families in Essex County line up to receive boxes of food, NJTV News, April 29, 2020 The Community Foodbank of New Jersey partnered with Essex County to have more than 100 volunteers and law enforcement officers distribute food to help those impacted by the coronavirus. Carlos Rodriguez, the organization’s president and CEO, says the goal was not only to feed families in need, but also relieve some of the stress on food banks that are helping more and more people in crisis. The meal boxes have 40 meal servings each and Rodriguez said that they distributed 2,000 boxes.
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