The newest COVID-19 relief bill, the “Heroes Act”, that just passed in the U.S. House of Representatives would — if passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by President Trump — provide low-income Utah families and individuals with nearly $45 million extra over the next 16 months to purchase groceries or food at farmers markets.
If passed, the “Heroes Act” could help feed hungry residents of Utah by providing a 15 percent increase for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program( SNAP).
Joel Berg is the CEO of Hunger Free America, an advocacy and service organization that is fighting to end hunger in the United States. Berg believes this bill could help the residents of Utah have access to healthy foods.
“Even before this crisis, Utah had a very significant hunger problem. In 2018, there were 308,000 people in Utah who lived in homes that couldn't afford enough food," said Berg. "About one in nine kids in Utah struggled against hunger. Even among people with jobs, one in 12 were paid so little they struggled against hunger. And this was all before the collapse of the economy all before school meals were closed.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic, an increased number of people have become food insecure. Berg said, people who were already hungry have become hungrier and those on the edge of hunger are now hungry.
“There's been a massive loss of jobs so people have less money to buy food. At the same time, food prices have skyrocketed. So people have less money to buy food that cost more. Pantries and kitchens and food banks have to pay more for food so they have less of it available. School meals have mostly been shut down, senior centers that provide meals have been mostly shut down. So it really is a perfect storm of everything that could go wrong for hungry people that did go wrong,” explained Berg.
According to the Hunger Free America’s 2019 U.S. Hunger Atlas more than 102,000 children in Utah lived in food insecure homes before the pandemic.