East Texas Food Bank sees increased need as SNAP benefits end

East Texas Food Bank sees increased need as SNAP benefits end
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 11:13 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2023 at 9:15 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - The first full month without COVID-19 emergency SNAP benefits is coming to an end.

Millions of households were receiving extra money to put food on the table throughout the uncertainty of the pandemic. In February, it was announced that beginning March 1 the temporary boost of SNAP benefits put in place by the COVID-19 pandemic would be ending.

CEO of the East Texas Food Bank, Dennis Cullinane, said their data isn’t all in for the month but they have noticed an increase in demand.

“We can really tell by the food that we’re shipping out, and there is a little bit of a lag to that because we’re about two weeks ahead on shipments like that. I’m expecting probably a 10 to 15 percent increase in the immediate demand,” Cullinane said.

Rachel Collins, the branch manager at the Deep East Texas Resource Center in Lufkin, said they have served 70 new families just this week.

“Typically, we have been serving between 600 and 650 families, now we are serving over 700. Last week we served almost 750 families,” Collins said.

Cullinane said inflation and the increase of demand puts a strain on the food bank.

“We’re seeing a lot of our food costs going up quite dramatically so it’s more expensive for us to do that distribution as well. So, you combined that with the increased need along with the increase cost we have, it’s a puzzle that we’re trying to constantly solve.”

Cullinane said about 15 to 20 percent of their funding comes from the government, while the rest comes from private funders such as foundations and donors. The food bank relies on community support.

“Continue to support us and your local pantries that are out there on the front lines doing the heavy lifting and we will get through this together as a community,” Cullinane said.

80 percent of the families that receive SNAP benefits are households with children and almost 27 percent of those families are households with elderly or are disabled.