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Local food banks struggling after U.S. ends COVID food aid

During the pandemic, more than 1.5 million Texans received extra money to help buy food and groceries, but now, that's going away.

TEMPLE, Texas — Many families are going to see a major drop in their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) deposit in March of 2023. When the pandemic first started, people using "SNAP" were given the maximum amount available to them, but now, that's going away.

People are figuring out what to do next after learning this month is the last time getting extra SNAP benefits. It is going to be an adjustment...even for food banks.

"We're looking at a minimum of $95 per household that is going to be gone from families' budgets, as much as up to potentially $200 for the average household," Sari Vatske, President and CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank, said.

After February's payments, the emergency SNAP benefits available to low-income Texans will return to pre-pandemic levels.

"It places an undo burden on the families we serve, as well as the Central Texas Food Bank," Vatske said. "We were looking at a deficit of about 20 million dollars a month that will be gone from Central Texan's wallets."

More than 1.5 million Texans received extra money to help buy food and groceries since the the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Now, it's on the local food banks to figure out how to help families in need.

"Instead of being able to give people who come to us a week's worth of groceries, we're going to cut back to giving them what we call an emergency 72 hour supply of food," Dawn Beckham, Auxiliary Captain at the Salvation Army of Bell County, said.

The pandemic caused an already prevalent issue to snowball.

"While federal COVID support was meant to be temporary, certainly no one anticipated the inflation and the economic impact that we're seeing now," Vatske said. "So, it really just shifts from one crisis to another."

A crisis that's not going to change overnight, but food pantries all over the state are stepping up. 

The Salvation Army of Bell County has expressed that they are planning future food drives and donation events to help make up for this recent cut.

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