Food Pantries See Increased Need as Subsidies Reduced

Food Pantries See Increased Need as Subsidies Reduced
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Food Pantries See Increased Need as Subsidies Reduced (Springfield, IL) (via The Center Square) — SNAP benefit cuts are impacting local food pantries in Illinois.

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Cuts in benefits in March for people who get food subsidies are leaving many looking at food pantries for help. Dan Philips, of Loaves and Fish Food Pantry, said demand is higher after COVID-era food subsidy enhancements were canceled.

“We thought ‘oh boy, this will be tough,’” Philips said. “But we have not been overwhelmed. We are coping.”

Philips credits COVID for making Peoria food pantries better at what they do. With the help of the University of Illinois Extension office, they worked with fellow food pantries to develop a local food pantry network.

“We work together and feed information into one common source. We share resources and communicate with each other on best practices,” Philips said.

The demand for food is still there and it is not getting smaller, he said. An estimated 40,000 people in Greater Peoria struggle to find enough to eat every week.

“COVID allowed us to fine tune what we were doing,” Philips said.

Loaves and Fish Food Pantry is a ministry of the First United Methodist Church, which is located in downtown Peoria next to the public library. Every Saturday they serve a hot meal to 300 people. In addition to a hot meal, the church gives the people a bag of groceries to take home.

“It’s not enough to eat for a week. We give them supplemental food,” Philips said.

It takes 40 volunteers every Saturday to put on the Saturday meal. In 28 years, the church has never missed a Saturday, even when Christmas fell on a Saturday or when there was 3 feet of snow on the ground.

All kinds of people show up on Saturdays for the hot meals. Some are homeless. Some live in shelters. Most have some kind of paid employment or at least one family member who is working.

“We see a lot of single moms. We have a lot of families. Most times somebody in the family is working but they can’t stretch the paycheck to feed everybody all week,” Philips said. “They wind up short at the end of the month.”

One time, Philips met a man in the lunch line who had been a part time professor at the local community college.

“Things happen or people get themselves in trouble. We don’t want anyone to go hungry,” Philips said.

Inflation has had a big impact on food pantries and on the families they serve, Philips said. Donations from supermarkets, big suppliers and other partners have dropped way off.

Loaves and Fish works closely with the Midwest Food Bank, the regional food bank supplier.

“In the last couple of months, they have seen their corporate donations, the food they bring in in semi-loads, drop pretty drastically,” Philips said. “Looking ahead, those shortages mean we have to develop new relationships and keep working harder to make up for those deficits.”

The average person on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits receives them for a few months, Philips said. When someone loses a job or when somebody gets ill and can’t work, food pantries are there for them until they can get back on their feet.

Food Pantries See Increased Need as Subsidies Reduced

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