We have an urgent need for additional investments in critical federal nutrition programs to ensure our neighbors facing hunger in the Lowcountry have access to adequate nutrition during this unprecedented time. The recently introduced Senate COVID-19 stimulus package, the HEALS Act, does not include a 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. SNAP is the nation’s greatest defense against hunger, proven to lift Americans and children out of food insecurity especially during economic downturns.
Lowcountry Food Bank continues to experience a significant increase in demand for food assistance. The demand for assistance is not an isolated situation. 94% of our sister food banks across the Feeding America network of 200 food banks and 60,000 partner feeding agencies have reported an increase in the number of people served compared to 2019. Feeding America estimates that approximately 4 in 10 individuals being served at food banks are new to charitable food assistance.
While the response from food banks continues to be robust, we are worried Lowcountry Food Bank and many others will not be able to sufficiently meet the demand. We can’t do it alone. We hope the Senate will address the rise in national food insecurity by increasing SNAP benefits by 15% for the duration on the economic downturn in the next stimulus package. The increase in benefits would help provide around an additional $25 more per month for an individual and just under $100 per month for a family of four. Increasing SNAP benefits targets individuals who need help the most, ensuring those dollars are spent quickly. Also, increasing the SNAP minimum benefit from $16 to $30 would help individuals economically impacted by the pandemic.
In addition to the SNAP investments, we urge our elected officials to include an additional $500 million in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) food and funds to ensure food banks can serve community members in need, and as we prepare for the long-term impact of this crisis, provide $543.25 million in funding for infrastructure needs to support the rental, lease, or purchase of essential assets such as acquiring refrigerated and dry trucks, trailers, refrigeration, and spacing for efficiently storing and distributing food across food bank service areas.
We also urge our elected officials to include a legislative fix for the extension and improvement of Pandemic-EBT. With many district schools across the nation holding only virtual classes for the 2020-2021 school year, the extension of Pandemic-EBT will ensure children continue to have access to meals when schools are closed.
We know how critical these nutrition investments will be for the existing 37 million Americans facing hunger before the pandemic, as well as the estimated 17.1 million additional people who could experience food insecurity this year due to the pandemic. We greatly appreciate all the support our elected officials have provided to Lowcountry Food Bank, and we hope they will consider these requests to ensure families facing in South Carolina can put food on the table during this unprecedented time.
President and CEO
About the Lowcountry Food Bank: Feed. Advocate. Empower.
The Lowcountry Food Bank serves the 10 coastal counties of South Carolina and distributed more than 32 million pounds of food in 2019. The Lowcountry Food Bank helps fight hunger by distributing food to nearly 300 partner agencies including soup kitchens, homeless shelters and emergency food pantries. The Lowcountry Food Bank advocates on behalf of those who experience hunger and helps empower people to make healthy and nutritious food choices.