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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The end of COVID-era food benefits is causing more Rhode Island families to look to food pantries for help.

Congress ended the additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits back in March. Coupled with the rising cost of groceries, more families are struggling to buy food.

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank tells 12 News that, before the SNAP benefits ended in March, they served 66,000 people. That ballooned to 79,000 people once the change went into effect. That’s a 20% increase.

“On average, each household lost $150 in SNAP benefits,” Rhode Island Food Bank CEO Andrew Schiff said. “That $150 dollars is enough to purchase a week’s worth of groceries.”

Food pantries aren’t so overwhelmed where they need to turn families away. But Schiff is worried if these trends continue, there could be a food crisis in Rhode Island and other states.

“The cost of food is also higher for the food bank so just means it costs us more to bring in the same amount of food,” Schiff said.

The state budget proposal unveiled Friday has an additional $3 million for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

But Schiff believed its on Congress to bring back the SNAP benefits families received during the height of the pandemic.

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