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Advocates raise concerns about food insecurity as emergency aid ends

People sort donations at a food pantry
Joel Muniz
People sort donations at a food pantry.

Hundreds of thousands of households across North Carolina will see their Food and Nutrition Services benefits drop lower Wednesday as extra money tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency ends. Advocates worry the move will increase food insecurity in the state.

Families enrolled in the FNS program, often called food stamps, had been receiving at least $95 extra per month since March 2020 through emergency allotments. With the end of emergency allotments, the average FNS benefit per person per day will decrease from $8.12 to $5.45.

"Families needed these additional benefits to get healthy and nutritious food throughout the pandemic," said N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Chief Deputy Secretary for Opportunity and Well-Being Susan Gale Perry. "While FNS emergency payments are ending, the need is not. We will continue to prioritize food security for all North Carolinians."

Grocery carts in front of a store
Clark Young
Grocery carts in front of a store

Slider Whichard, head of public policy for the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, says extra money to support free and reduced lunch programs are also winding down.

"At the same time that's happening, to have these extra funds going away, I think we're going to see a big challenge for a lot of families," she said.

The funds are loaded onto debit cards for qualifying individuals and families. The money comes from the federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, sometimes referred to by the shorthand SNAP.

Since the onset of the pandemic, an average of 900,000 North Carolina households received FNS emergency allotments, giving families access to healthier meals. It also brought an additional $150 million of federal dollars into the state, which Whichard said benefitted local economies.

"The other thing about SNAP that's awesome is it provides economic support into communities," she said. "So these are funds being spent at local grocery stores, which help keep those grocery stores in place in neighborhoods where they can be utilized and provide nutritious food."

Jason deBruyn is WUNC's Supervising Editor for Digital News, a position he took in 2024. He has been in the WUNC newsroom since 2016 as a reporter.
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