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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

Food banks expect a massive increase in need as food stamps are cut for 3.6 million Texans

Tarrant Area Food Bank workers hand out groceries at Herman Clark Stadium in Fort Worth on Friday, September 11, 2020.
Christopher Connelly
Tarrant Area Food Bank workers hand out groceries at Herman Clark Stadium in Fort Worth on Friday, September 11, 2020.

Starting this month, Texans who use SNAP benefits to buy groceries will have an average of $212 less per month to buy groceries, as pandemic-era increases to the food assistance program are ended.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Julie Butner, who heads the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth.

The state is expected to see a roughly $340 million decrease in benefits from February to March as the pandemic SNAP allotments expire.

The reduction in food support comes at a time of record inflation in grocery prices, and as food banks have seen cuts to federal funding, fewer donations of food from retailers, and a reduction in community donations.

“The food bank is going to see even higher rates of people needing emergency food support, and we’re already at record levels because of inflation,” Butner said.

The food bank has already reduced the amount of groceries it gives out to each client.

Senior citizens are particularly vulnerable, Butner said.

“They’re on fixed incomes, so they don’t have a lot of avenues to pursue in order to bridge the gap,” she said.

Early in the pandemic, the US Department of Agriculture gave states the option of giving every SNAP recipient the maximum allotment for the duration of the health emergency. That 4.2 million Americans out of poverty, and cut child poverty rates significantly, according to an Urban Institute analysis.

In December, Congress voted to end those expanded benefits early, starting March 1. SNAP households will lose at least $95 per month, with some losing several hundred dollars a month in assistance.

In the four largest Dallas-Fort Worth counties — Collin, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant Counties — nearly 650,000 individuals will lose SNAP funds, according to data from Feeding Texas, more than half of them children. More than 55,000 seniors will be affected across the four counties.

Feeding Texas and other advocacy organizations have called on state lawmakers to reduce restrictions that keep low-income Texans from getting help they need. Texas already makes it harder than most states for people to receive SNAP benefits, and it has one of the lowest rates of enrollment of eligible individuals.

Butner said she’s hoping that Congress will increase support for SNAP recipients and food banks in the next farm bill.

Meanwhile, low wages leave too many working Texans unable to pay for basic necessities like rent, utilities, groceries and transportation.

“Think about all the people you come across in your day to day, whether it’s at the drycleaner or at the grocery store or when you’re sitting down at a restaurant,” she said. “That is who is coming to our partner agencies and to the food bank.”

Most are working, she said. They just don’t make enough money to cover basic necessities. And now, many will have to get by with even less.

Got a tip? Christopher Connelly is KERA's One Crisis Away Reporter, exploring life on the financial edge. Email Christopher can follow Christopher on Twitter @hithisischris.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, considermaking a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Christopher Connelly is a reporter covering issues related to financial instability and poverty for KERA’s One Crisis Away series. In 2015, he joined KERA to report on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. From Fort Worth, he also focused on politics and criminal justice stories.