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Budgets stretch as SNAP benefits reduced, grocery prices remain high

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Posted at 10:47 PM, Mar 01, 2023

WILLOWICK, Ohio — As March begins, millions of Americans are preparing to stretch reduced budgets to cover rising food costs. February marked the end of extra payments for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The pandemic-era emergency allotments have been providing hundreds of additional dollars to low-income families and individuals.

Allison and Ernest Edens received their final emergency allotment Tuesday. Starting in March, they’ll receive $238 less per month. The Willowick couple worries how they’ll juggle their bills in the coming months with the reduced benefits.

“Our back property taxes here are $15,000. So I’ve been praying everyday that we don’t lose the house,” Allison said of the home they inherited from her husband’s mother. “We’re buying some extra stuff to have on hand to prepare for the end of the month and trying to stretch it out.”

The couple volunteers and receives aid from Willow Praise Church and said they and others are relying more on food assistance.

“What are we going to do? How are we going to pay for groceries with them stopping that extra money? It’s hard,” said Allison.

The Willowick church hosts a monthly drive-thru food distribution on location and a second event at the Eastlake Senior Center. Both have seen need surging in recent months and anticipate demand to spike as families receive less SNAP money.

“The last couple months, the numbers have risen to the highest I’ve ever seen,” said Lake County Treasurer Michael Zuren, who attends Willow Praise and volunteers at its food distribution events.

The pastor there told News 5 the church served a record number of people during its most recent food distribution. Many expect the need will continue growing.

RELATED: February SNAP emergency allotment issue resolved after delay due to vendor issue, ODJFS says

“A lot of people talked about SNAP. But a lot of people talked directly about the cost of goods. They would talk about meat or eggs or produce or dairy. And a lot of time, it’s double what it was a year and a half ago,” Zuren said. “We’ve all talked about that there’s going to be a bigger demand. And we’ve seen it.”

The Edens family realizes others, particularly those with small children, are facing even more difficult circumstances in the coming months.

“It’s hard. It really is hard,” said Allison. “Families who have young kids, it’s just devastating what they have to go through now.”

Zuren said Lake County is planning its first food distribution event outside the county administration building, located at 105 Main Street in Painesville, on April 21. The drive-thru food pickup will happen alongside a resource fair from 10 a.m. to noon. Lake County Residents can pre-register for the food distribution by calling 211 or Council on Aging at 440-205-8111.

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