CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — For decades now, Loaves and Fishes has served the Charlotte area as a food bank for various organizations and food pantries.
Since the pandemic, they noted the increased need for their services, and they are preparing now for another possible influx due to a federal program ending.
The COVID-era SNAP benefit extension had been in place for years, but as of Wednesday, it will end for adults and senior citizens.
“I still see a lot of homeless people, a lot of walk-ups all the time for people that are in need of food,” said Ashley Rhyne, assistant program coordinator for Loaves and Fishes. “Children, just family in general.”
Rhyne has a previous history of getting SNAP benefits. Now, they’re concentrating on food delivery to families and individuals that need it. Being on the level of delivery, she noted how much the SNAP benefit extension has helped, in the form of an extra $95 a month for recipients to use for groceries.
“It means…a thousand words to a lot of people,” she said.
But as of March 1, things will be different.
The program will end, and state officials in North Carolina have been working to prepare people for the program’s end, offering assistance and resources for those affected.
However, not everyone will be affected by this. The Pandemic EBT (or P-EBT) program, similar to the SNAP benefit extension, will continue for children until May 11. Federal officials indicate they’ll end the COVID-19 public health emergency on that date.
Other food banks, such as Second Harvest, have noted the SNAP extension end will “definitely” lead to a rise in the need among the area food pantries. Still, like with Loaves and Fishes, they must wait to quantify the increased demand down the road.
“Half of who we serve are seniors and children,” Loaves and Fishes CEO Tina Postel said. “The other 50% are adults, and if those benefits aren’t going to be extended, we’re expecting our phone to be ringing off the hook from people needing to use our pantries.”
Queen City News visited the Loaves and Fishes warehouse Tuesday, which had rafters full of pallets, with boxes full of food.
Postel noted, “we’re anticipating going through that in the coming weeks or month or two ahead.”
Food banks and other organizations note the need for monetary and non-perishable donations. However, they also note that they are subject to the same inflation-related price issues as the general public and encourage donations whenever possible. Loaves and Fishes said that they had seen a drop in food donations, though monetary donations have held steady.
Additionally, food organizations and local and state agencies are urging those with a need for food to reach out, either to the organizations themselves or to available local food pantries.