Long lines of cars waiting hours for food assistance. Families going to their local food banks for assistance for the first time. Unemployment rates rising beyond those of the Great Recession.
We are in unprecedented times. Putting food on the table is harder than it has ever been for millions of people in our country. Federal programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — the nation’s first line of defense against hunger — are more critical than ever to keeping families afloat, and these programs should be strengthened to be even more effective at fighting hunger.
In upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation, our lawmakers have an important opportunity to increase SNAP benefits by 15 percent, a move that would make our nation’s largest anti-hunger program more powerful during these unsure times.
Here are three reasons why boosting SNAP benefits during the coronavirus crisis is the most lawmakers can do.
1. SNAP is a proven anti-hunger powerhouse.
By expanding the food purchasing power of families, SNAP has helped to safeguard the food security and health of families in need for decades. And its power is unparalleled: For every meal the Feeding America network of 200 food banks and 60,000 pantries and meal programs provides, SNAP provides nine. SNAP has a strength that no level of charity will ever be able to replicate, making it more critical than ever to expand SNAP benefits by 15 percent.
2. SNAP helps local economies.
Beyond being an anti-hunger powerhouse, SNAP is also a key economic multiplier. When families who are low-income receive SNAP benefits, they typically use them quickly, circulating money within and stimulating local economies.
As national unemployment claims continue to soar to historic heights, it is becoming increasingly clear that an economic downturn will follow the end of our present public health emergency. Increasing SNAP benefits by 15 percent will help to make the program even more responsive to any economic downswing.
According to an analysis by Moody’s Analytics of SNAP benefits during the Great Recession, every dollar in SNAP helped generate more than $1.70 in economic activity. Similarly, the Congressional Budget Office rated an increase in SNAP as one of the most cost-effective ways to boost economic growth and create jobs in a weak economy.
3. Food banks alone cannot fight hunger during, and after, COVID-19.
With hunger on the rise across the country, food banks are on the frontlines serving people in need. At the same time, as demand for emergency food assistance increases, food donations have declined, and volunteers are cancelling shifts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. With the increase in demand, it is impossible for food banks alone to shoulder the task of ensuring no one goes hungry during and after this crisis.
The only way to meet the needs of people facing hunger is through both a strong charitable system and a deep government investment in our federal nutrition programs, like SNAP.