Last month, 21 new families signed up to use the Mission’s food pantry. That is almost twice as many as had signed up in January and four times as many new households that signed up in December. The number of new families accessing the pantry has not been this high since the beginning of the pandemic according to Megan Smith, Food Security Program Coordinator.
Megan chats with every new visitor and many have told her they came to the pantry because their benefits were cut. The pandemic-era increase Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that supported many families ended on March 1. In Maine the average recipient saw their benefits cut by at least $190. And every recipient is receiving at least $95 less a month. Those who receive the minimum SNAP benefits will see the steepest decrease from $281 to just $23. With food prices up 10% compared to the same time last year, many families and individuals are coming to the pantry to make ends meet.
Downeast Director Jenny Jones spoke about the changes in a recent interview with News Center Maine. “We’re starting to see more families who relied very heavily on increased financial support through the SNAP program. They have lost a large portion of those funds and need assistance from other sources including our food security programming,” says Jenny.
In addition to new clients, visits by existing pantry users also increased. 160 households visited the pantry at least once last month, 39 more than the month prior. For those coming to the pantry more than once a month, that number went from 203 to 253. Some families who had visited maybe once a month are visiting four or more times.
The Mission works to empower visitors to the pantry by offering expanded hours and a grocery store experience. People can come in and chat with Megan, talk about their days, and peruse the shelves. They can also take exactly what they want and need, without limits or questions.
Learn more about the initiatives Mission’s Food Security programs.