At the beginning of this month, families in Baltimore who rely on federal food assistance SNAP experienced a significant cut in their benefits as a pandemic-era program that had been providing additional aid for the past three years came to a close. With only a few dollars left to support themselves, many are currently grappling with the challenge of how to survive.
Upon discovering that their monthly grocery budget has plummeted from $280 to a mere $23, senior citizens and single parents have reached out to WMAR-2 News journalist Mallory Sofastaii for assistance. The Maryland Department of Human Services has reported that almost 10% of the state’s population, comprising SNAP beneficiaries, will be affected by this change, with the average monthly benefits reduced by $170.
Can the reduction in SNAP benefits be overcome?
For families struggling to afford food, food banks and food pantries can provide assistance. Furthermore, Wilson proposes that SNAP recipients utilize free school meals, which they qualify for automatically. In Baltimore City, all students, irrespective of income, are eligible for this program. Wilson also emphasized that the free school meals have specific dietary requirements, making them the healthiest meal for many children throughout the day.
To make the most out of their SNAP benefits, shoppers should adopt smart shopping practices such as purchasing items in bulk, using store and cashback apps, searching for coupons and discounts, and sticking to a shopping list to remain within budget.
Local farmers markets also offer opportunities to double SNAP benefits
The amount of benefit doubling available depends on the farmers market location. Presently, the 32nd Street Market in Baltimore is matching up to $20 per week, whereas Crossroads Market in Takoma Park is matching up to $50 per week. For a complete list of farmers markets in Maryland, click here.To maximize the funds available for food, SNAP beneficiaries can also reduce costs in other areas. They are eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which offers a discount of up to $30 per month on internet service and a one-time $100 discount for specific electronics.
Amazon Prime has cut its monthly membership in half for SNAP recipients, and the YMCA offers a discounted program for households based on income. Despite these options, Wilson acknowledges that the upcoming months will be challenging. “There’s no easy way out of this situation. The critical issue is how people can manage their circumstances as best as possible,” he stated. “We must determine what Maryland can do to support those who are struggling with poverty.”
Policy makers in New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C. have proposed various measures such as increasing the minimum SNAP benefit or allocating extra funding for the next few months. WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii has reached out to Governor Wes Moore’s office multiple times to inquire about potential measures to assist the 600,000 Marylanders affected by the SNAP reduction, but has yet to receive a response. Meanwhile, for those not directly impacted, food banks and pantries are in need of donations to cope with the rising demand for assistance.
A campaign has been launched by Instacart where online shoppers can donate food items to the Maryland Food Bank while they shop, and SNAP recipients can avail of discounted memberships.