GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With the extra pandemic emergency funding ending for people receiving SNAP benefits, local food pantries are bracing for a huge increase in people needing assistance.
Unfortunately, donations are way down and inflation has increased the cost of buying food to keep the shelves stocked.
Bethany Joseph, the director of community resources at Other Way Ministries Food Pantry, said it’s going to get even tougher to help people.
“During the pandemic, food stamp benefits were increased significantly to aid people during that really difficult time,” Joseph said. “Those extra food stamp benefits have ended at the end of February, but need has not really decreased, hardly at all. Before the pandemic, we were seeing about 150 families a month. At the height of the pandemic, we were seeing about 900, and we’re still seeing 800 right now.”
She said the pantry is anticipating seeing more people over the next few weeks with the reduction in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
“We see new people every day. We register new folks every day here and there’s going to be an uptick. We’re certain of it,” she said.
The pantry has already had to make some cuts by reducing the amount of food that each person gets to stretch the stock.
“We get a lot of food donated from the federal government every quarter. We purchase a lot of food, either from Feeding America or from Meijer, from Bridge Street Market,” Joseph said. “We try to purchase some local produce, but our budget is … down about $20,000 compared to 2021, 2022, and yet we’re still serving the same amount of people. So we are trying to make the pantry serve the same number on a much decreased amount of money.”
You can help Other Way Ministries Food Pantry make up for lost revenue by donating.
“The best way to support a food pantry is to donate directly to them,” she said. “We have ways that we can get discounts at places, we can purchase in bulk. If you either donate food or donate money, we can use either one of those. Some of our most desirable items that tend to go off the shelves really fast are canned fruit, canned meat like tuna or chicken, those are probably the biggest ones that we have trouble keeping in stock.”
You can donate to the Other Way Ministries and learn more about their programs by going to their website, theotherway.org.