Local pantries prepare for life after pandemic SNAP benefits

Carney partners with Food Bank to help needy
March 14, 2023

March has been a case of good news/bad news for Cape Region food banks, as COVID-era emergency funding runs out, but Gov. John Carney’s administration has stepped in to help ease the transition off of those benefits.

On March 1, emergency COVID benefits for those involved in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program program ran out, meaning extra money that was loaded onto SNAP cards to get through the pandemic was discontinued. For local food pantries, that money was important - it reduced how many clients they have to serve.

On March 8, Carney’s administration announced a partnership with the Food Bank of Delaware to provide $3.24 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding that will help the food bank purchase food and hold food drives over the next three months. 

“This funding will help stock shelves at local food pantries statewide, and it’ll support large drive-thru mobile pantries in each county to help Delaware families transition after the recent federal change to food benefits,” Carney said. “Unwinding COVID-19 programs is a good sign, and this should help ease the transition. We’re grateful to the Food Bank of Delaware for their partnership to help bridge the gap over the next few months.”

Food Bank President and CEO Cathy Kanefsky said, “We are always stronger as a community when we partner together. We are grateful for our partners in the state government who care deeply about our community’s most vulnerable.”

She said the food bank had been bracing for the end of the funding – the $3.24 million represents the gap between the level of operating costs before the pandemic and what is needed to continue services after. Kanefsky said people have grown used to the emergency funds, and the loss of those funds is going to make a huge difference for people who don’t have a lot of extra money.

“When emergency SNAP benefits were first issued at the start of the pandemic, I don’t think any of us imagined that grocery prices would be so high due to inflation. Due to these increased costs, we are serving more people now than at the height of the pandemic. We hope these additional resources will provide much relief to our neighbors,” she said. 

The food bank is planning mobile pantry distribution events in the future as part of the program; dates have not been announced.

The extra SNAP benefits amounted to at least $95 extra per month, but amounts varied depending on household size. On Feb. 28, families in the SNAP program got their last bit of COVID assistance. Nearly 124,000 Delawareans take part in the program.

Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Molly Magarik said, "We know the end of federal emergency food benefits is going to be hard on Delawareans who receive SNAP benefits. We hope this partnership with the Food Bank of Delaware will help relieve some of the burden now faced by SNAP households in our state as they deal with fewer benefits and higher food costs."

With families unable to spend as much at the grocery store, local food pantries are anticipating an increase in demand.

Donna Murawski, president of Milton Community Food Pantry, said, “We at the pantry expect to see a significant increase in the number of clients we serve due to the cuts in SNAP benefits. Food banks in the 18 states that have already reduced SNAP benefits are reporting a surge in demand for food at the local food banks.”

Murawski said nationwide reports indicate that elderly Americans will be hit the hardest with reduced benefits, as they drop from $281 per month to $23 per month. 

“The cost of groceries has increased significantly over the past year,” she said. “We all know what $23 can buy at the grocery store in this economy.”

Murawski also expects to see more demand after the food pantry in nearby Ellendale closes its doors. She said the pantry has contacted officials in Ellendale to refer needy families to the Milton pantry. Presently, the Milton pantry serves 70 to 80 families with each distribution, held twice per month.  

Jon DeVoll, president of the Cape Henlopen Food Basket, said the pantry, which serves 170 to 200 families per month, actually had less demand during the pandemic. While demand could go up as the result of the loss of extra SNAP funds, he does not expect to have any problems providing extra food, in part because the food basket has a strong supply chain between donations from local grocery stores and supplies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 


Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter