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Food insecurity worries grow with end of some federal benefits

Supplemental benefits in the federal SNAP program that began during the pandemic are ending in March.

There’s an effort to get the word out about a big change affecting people who get assistance with their food budgets.

The changes involve the pulling back of additional federal benefits for the SNAP food assistance program.

The supplemental payments went to individuals and families getting SNAP help during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that extra help is being pulled back starting this month, and Mark Dwyer, a spokesman for the Rochester based food bank organization Foodlink, said that will put a big strain on families, especially with the recent increase in food prices.

“We say this is temporary and was expected to expire at some point,” said Dwyer. “But this is hitting of course when inflation is still a huge factor in terms of how far you can stretch your food budget. And so these benefits are going away at a time when a lot of families are really struggling to put enough food on the table to begin with.”

Dwyer expects a sharp demand in help from local food banks, but he said that can’t be the only answer.

“Like anything, food banking and the emergency food system isn’t a solution to a sharp reduction in SNAP benefits.,” said Dwyer. “Just in Monroe County alone, this is $10 million that’s now missing from people’s food budgets. And so we can’t compensate for that. But we can do as much as we can by getting additional food out the door and into households that need it.”

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said his office has compiled a report the shows approximately 1 in 10 New York households experienced food insecurity at some point between 2019 and 2021.

On Wednesday, DiNapoli released a statement saying that, “Our nation’s nutrition programs should be expanded to help those who are struggling to feed themselves and our families.

DiNapoli is calling for a number of steps including the expansion of the SNAP program and also having the federal government renew the expansion of the child tax credit program.

Monroe County, Foodlink and other organizations have information about changes in the SNAP program on the county's website.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.