Food stamp enrollment has surged by 6 million people since the pandemic hit the United States, said the USDA on Wednesday in its first update of SNAP participation in months. Some 42.9 million people received food stamps at latest count, the highest number since October 2017.
Congress allotted the same amount of funding for public nutrition programs that it did for agriculture in the new coronavirus relief bill, even though hunger is on the rise, wrote three economists on Tuesday. "An obvious way to address the problem would be to shift all or most of the $13 billion earmarked for farmers to federal nutrition programs that serve hungry families in real need," the economists said in an essay in The Hill.
A bipartisan Senate coronavirus relief package would increase SNAP benefits by 15 percent through April and provide additional funding for WIC and food donations to food banks, according to a summary released on Wednesday.
Some 6 million to 7 million people have joined the food stamp program since the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying economic recession hit the United States last spring, a growth rate for SNAP never seen before, said the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The think tank said enrollment exceeds 43 million people and is the highest since October 2017.
Congress created the P-EBT program early this year to help low-income parents buy food for their school-age children during coronavirus closures. Two high-ranking House Democrats said on Thursday the USDA would cut off benefits to students at schools that begin classes later than usual because of the pandemic.
The Trump administration should immediately extend two waivers that allow schools during the coronavirus pandemic to serve meals at no charge to students, whether in the cafeteria, the classroom, or as grab-and-go meals at the curbside, said former education secretary Arne Duncan on Monday.
Four dozen House Democrats warned the USDA against using its food box donation program "to distribute a self-promoting letter from the president" ahead of the Nov. 3 election, criticizing the idea as a political use of federal resources.
The Farmers to Families Food Box giveaway program, the Trump administration's response to hunger during the coronavirus pandemic, will run through Oct. 31 to use up the last of its $3 billion in funds, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Grocery prices will rise a modest 1.5 percent in 2021, close to the long-term average and half of the larger-than-usual increase expected this year, said the USDA in its first forecast of food inflation in the new year.
An increase in SNAP benefits "must be part of an effective, comprehensive response to Covid-19," said 2,500 anti-hunger, medical, religious, labor, farm, and consumer groups in a letter to Senate leaders. Republican senators, who blocked recent proposals by House Democrats for higher SNAP benefits, are expected to decide soon whether to draft a new coronavirus relief bill. (No paywall)