Dane County food banks are expecting an increase in need for food assistance after additional benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) sunsetted in March.
The federal government provided additional SNAP benefits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SNAP recipients will receive an average of $90 per month less in assistance after the additional benefits sunsetted.
Kris Tazelaar, director of marketing and communications at Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin, said some food providers have already reported an increase in demand.
“It's difficult to estimate the increase in demand,” Tazelaar said. “Anecdotally, many of our local food provider partners have shared that they are seeing twice as many people walk through their doors in recent months.”
In response, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi allocated $7.5 million to fight food insecurity in the 2023 county budget and continued the Farm to Foodbank Initiative, a partnership between Dane County and Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin to provide locally-grown food to residents facing food insecurity. The initiative began in April 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parisi said in a press release the initiative provided much needed help during the pandemic and should continue through 2023.
“This partnership exemplifies the good that can result when people come together to look for ways to address challenging circumstances,” Parisi said. “This is keeping people who struggle to make ends meet fed and creating income for our local growers and farmers. I’m continually grateful to Second Harvest and each one of the partner organizations for their persistence and creativity in helping us support our neighbors.”
Tazelaar said the funding has allowed local food producers to provide additional assistance to families facing food insecurity.
“Funding that has been allocated by the Dane County Executive's office has been used to support Dane County farmers and food producers to purchase locally grown and produced food that is then distributed to families facing food insecurity in Dane County,” Tazelaar said. “We are incredibly grateful for their continued support.”
According to data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 46,260 Dane County residents received FoodShare benefits in February. Without the additional benefits, food banks expect needing to make up the gap, Tazelaar said.
“For those families who have relied on the extra FoodShare benefits to help meet their food resource needs, we anticipate that they will turn to their local emergency food provider to help make ends meet,” Tazelaar said.