Updated: Feb 17
BY ELIZABETH PERRY
In March, all recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will be losing an additional monthly payment at the same time about 249,000 households in Pennsylvania will experience a decrease in their monthly SNAP benefit because of a change in eligibility requirements.
June Fleming, Community Resource Center coordinator for Focus on Renewal, said FOR is expecting more residents to utilize the food pantry as a result.
“It's a perfect storm with the changes in the SNAP program, food prices soaring, and utility costs rising,” Fleming said via statement.
The reason behind these decreases is the Federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, which ends states’ authority to issue emergency allotment payments after February 2023. The allotments began at the start of the pandemic in 2020, bringing payments up from one to two a month.
Households were given the maximum monthly payment for their household size or, if they are already receiving the maximum, they received an additional $95 in benefits.
SNAP households will now have to make do with one monthly payment. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, that’s a reduction of more than $200 million in aid statewide.
Simultaneously, a cost of living adjustment for Social Security Income recipients has caused many to lose SNAP benefits. In January, SSI recipients received a cost of living adjustment of 8.7%, which pushed about 20,000 households above the income threshold for SNAP benefits, according to Sen. Wayne Fontana’s office.
Amy Cavicchia, director of programs and community engagement with Coraopolis Community Development, is also anticipating an increase in need at the food pantry after the changes go into effect. Already, Cavicchia said they’d seen an increase in people utilizing the service.
“We’re preparing for a much busier March and April but we are prepared and ready to serve,” she said.
Cavicchia said the pantry currently serves roughly 400 families. Before the changes, the group spent $2,000 a month to supply food two times a month for families. With the drastic increase in food prices of late, Cavicchia said the organization spent $3,000 in February on just one order of groceries. The Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank has helped the Coraopolis food pantry offer fresh fruits and vegetables, she said.
The average reduction in benefits will be $40 per household, which will take effect in March 2023 following the end of COVID-19 SNAP Emergency Allotments.
Jaun Dixon, 60, and Anna Andinno, 64, receive food stamps but currently rely on the Coraopolis food pantry, too.
“We’re grateful for what they do for us,” Andinno said.
The couple have been together 20 years; Dixon works as a part-time caregiver four days a week, and Andinno is retired. She suffers from health issues that preclude her from performing many jobs, and they are expecting a reduction in their food stamp allotments.
Dixon said he gets $23 in food stamps because he makes too much at his part-time job. Andinno, who receives Social Security, said she saw an additional $31 in her SSI check with the cost of living increase. With these benefits, they aren’t able to buy all the food they need. Like Andinno, he’s grateful for what they have and pointed out many people have it much worse.
“We look out for neighbors when we can. The man upstairs helps us out, too, so we can’t complain,” Dixon said.
Cavicchia said though this moment is scary for many, the community has survived scary times before, like during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think we will always have food for everyone that comes and are in need, people should not be afraid about receiving food,” Cavicchia said. “We won’t turn anyone away.”
Editor & Publisher Sonja Reis contributed to this report.
Here's a list of food banks in your local area
Many local church communities, like Sharon Presbyterian Community Church's West Hills Food Pantry in Moon and St Nicholas Orthodox Church Pantry in McKees Rocks, provide smaller neighborhood-based supplemental food pantry access.
And in some neighborhoods, your own neighbors provide access to supplemental food using the honor system in spots known as Little Free Pantries.
Financial eligibility is required for access to many of the larger food banks and pantries in the area. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank provides support for many of these larger area food banks including:
Coraopolis Community Development
Contact: (412) 329-8247
1108 Fourth Ave, Coraopolis
Crafton-Ingram Food Pantry
Contact: (412 ) 921-2293
80 Bradford Ave., Crafton
Focus on Renewal Food Pantry
Contact: (412) 331-1685
302 Bell Ave., Hays Manor 15/16, McKees Rocks
Inter Church Food Bank
Contact: (412) 771-4088
618 Russellwood Ave., Stowe
New Life Fellowship International - Food Pantry
Contact: (412) 922-3703
920 Lorenz Ave., Elliott
The Pneuma Center
Contact: (412) 414-3054
700 Sherwood Ave., Sheraden
Salvation Army Chartiers Valley - Food Pantry
Contact: (412) 276-4757
39 W. Main St., Carnegie
Salvation Army West Side - Food Pantry
Contact: (412) 921-9780
1821 Broadhead Fording Road, Fairywood
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton - Food Pantry
Contact: (412) 489-5848
330 Third Ave., Carnegie