8 Resources for Affording Groceries If Your Emergency SNAP Benefits Have Expired

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Life has suddenly become much more expensive for those who can afford it the least. In June, SNAP recipients in 18 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands saw their benefit payments shrink as pandemic-era emergency allotments (EAs) expired at the end of May in more than one-third of the country.

The EAs, authorized by federal legislation in March 2020, increased food stamps payments for people who were already eligible for SNAP — but it was up to the states to opt in or out. 

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Much of America has now opted out of federal EAs, which means that your ability to buy food might depend on where you live. If you’re part of a low-income household struggling to get by with less money on your EBT card every month, you have options. 

Make Your Money Work for You

Here’s where you can turn for help if you lost your emergency allotment and food has become too expensive to afford even with the help of SNAP.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

WIC serves low-income women who are pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum, as well as infants, toddlers and children up to age 5. More than half of all infants born in the United States — 53% — depend on WIC.

The program provides not just supplemental food, but nutritional education and counseling at WIC clinics, as well as screenings and referrals to other social, health and welfare services.

The program’s website outlines the categorical, income, residential and nutritional risk eligibility requirements under the WIC Eligibility Requirements section.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and Local Food Banks

TEFAP is a federal program that purchases high-quality, USDA food for low-income families at no cost. The program provides short-term emergency assistance to households that are experiencing temporary food insecurity. The USDA distributes TEFAP food through state agencies and food banks.

Make Your Money Work for You

To locate your community’s food-distribution center, visit FeedingAmerica.org and navigate to “Find Your Local Food Bank.”

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The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)

Explicitly designed to support vulnerable seniors, CSFP serves low-income Americans who are at least 60 years old. The food packages it distributes do not provide a complete diet, but they contain nutritious USDA commodities meant to keep seniors healthy by supplementing their meals. Packages might include things like canned vegetables, chicken, fish, fruit, cereal, pasta, rice, milk and cheese.

Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)

More than 800,000 seniors receive food assistance through SFMNP every year. The program provides fresh, locally grown fruit, vegetables, honey and herbs while supporting farmers markets, roadside stands and community agriculture initiatives.

National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs

The National School Lunch Program serves roughly 5 billion free or low-cost meals to eligible schoolchildren from qualifying households every year. The School Breakfast Program serves 2.4 billion meals per year to children in need of a nutritious breakfast in the morning. The Summer Food Service Program provides nutritious meals and snacks to eligible children in the summer when school is out.

Make Your Money Work for You

Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) 

As the name implies, FDPIR provides food to qualifying low-income households on reservations and to American Indian households in approved areas close to reservations or in the state of Oklahoma. Many households participate in the program instead of SNAP because they don’t have access to SNAP-authorized food stores or offices.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

CACFP provides meals and snacks to eligible participants of all ages. The program serves nonresidential adult day care centers and public and private nonprofit child care centers.

USDA National Hunger Hotline

If you need help finding resources like food banks, food pantries, meal distribution sites and other social services, call the USDA National Hunger Hotline. The hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST. Call the following numbers to speak with a live representative:

  • 866-3-HUNGRY (486479)
  • 877-8-HAMBRE (426273)

You can also text 914-342-7744 with messages containing words like “food” or “meals” for automated assistance.

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.

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