(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — Governor Josh Shapiro with other Pennsylvania officials are reminding residents the end of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits is coming and offering some support options.

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Val Arkoosh and Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary for Strategic Initiatives and Market Development Cheryl Cook joined leadership from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and Feeding Pennsylvania on Thursday to highlight upcoming federal changes to SNAP benefits taking effect starting March 1, 2023.

They also discussed how important it is for Pennsylvanians to support their local food banks and pantries as the statewide systems work to help people affected by this change. 

According to a release, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, passed and signed into law last December, ends a pandemic-era response policy that has provided recipients with an additional SNAP payment every month since early 2020. These payments, known as Emergency Allotments (EAs), bring SNAP households to a maximum monthly benefit for their household size or – if the household is already at its maximum – $95, whichever is greater.

February is the final month that EAs are authorized to be sent. All SNAP households will lose a minimum of $95 a month in SNAP benefits starting in March, with a statewide average impact of $181 per household.

“As a physician, I’ve seen the close relationship between a person’s diet and health. Reliable access to healthy foods and the inherent dignity that comes with knowing you can feed yourself and your family can make a difference on both a person’s physical and mental well-being,” said Acting Secretary Arkoosh.

When these additional benefits end, Pennsylvania’s charitable food network will be called to step up its fight against hunger in communities statewide.

“The charitable food network has provided an extraordinary service since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and will be as helpful as possible as the impacts of these changes to SNAP benefits affect Pennsylvanians. However, food banks and pantries are the last line of defense against hunger, not a replacement for SNAP,” said Deputy Secretary Cook. “For the charitable food network to better serve those who need more help as a result of SNAP benefit reductions, it is important for all who are able, to donate time, money, and food to help our regional food banks and local food pantries.”

The release further states how Pennsylvania food banks can serve around 2.2 million people annually, but since the pandemic began, these food banks have served more than 684.2 million pounds of food to more than 83.7 million individuals and an average of 581,000 people each week.

“The demand for food assistance has already been increasing due to the higher prices of groceries. Food Banks are stocking up in preparation to help even more of our neighbors when the SNAP benefits are cut back,” said Tara Davis, Director of Agency Services and Outreach for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. “More than ever we need help from our community to make sure no one has to go hungry.”

Food Assistance Resources Available 

  • SNAP recipients who are pregnant or have kids under 5 may be able to get help buying food from PA WIC. You can call 1-800-WIC-WINS or apply online
  • You can call 211 or visit pa211.org to connect with various local food resources; 
  • Visit feedingpa.org to find local food banks and other food assistance programs; 
  • Go to Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for information on assistance programs and other resources; and, 
  • If you are a SNAP-eligible senior citizen, the Senior Food Box Program can provide additional shelf-stable groceries

Pennsylvanians who need to report changes to their household size, income, or expenses — like housing, dependent care and health care costs — are encouraged to report any changes online. This measure helps ensure households are receiving the maximum SNAP benefit based on their individual circumstances. 

For more information about SNAP Emergency Allotments and food assistance resources available, visit dhs.pa.gov/SNAPcares.