Food banks have seen increased need since pandemic-related food benefits expired in Idaho. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare decided not to extend SNAP Emergency Allotments in the state, which were designed to increase benefits to the lowest-income households during the pandemic shutdown.
Ariel Jackson, executive director of the Community Food Basket in Idaho Falls, said numbers went down after the expanded benefits went into effect last year. But this announcement has reversed that trend, and she saw the first signs of it posted on Facebook.
"People were panicking because they had received a letter and they weren't going to be getting this extra allotment anymore, and they didn't know what they were going to do," she said. "Within days of that, our numbers at our food bank spiked back up. We were seeing 20 to 30 families a day - and now, we're back up to 60 a day."
Jackson said her colleagues in food banks across the state have seen similar increases. The enhanced benefits stopped at the end of April. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 42,000 Idaho households received SNAP emergency allotments in March.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare did not respond to a request for comment.
Idaho has announced that additional unemployment benefits from the federal government also will end in the state in mid-June, and the federal eviction moratorium is set to expire at the end of June. Jackson said she thinks the combination could mean a "benefits cliff" for some people, who either have struggled to find jobs or haven't returned to work because of health concerns.
"One of the biggest concerns that food banks have," she said, "is that these programs will all end at relatively the same time - and we'll feel it here. People won't know what to do."
Jackson said she believes families didn't have enough time to cope with the SNAP benefits change. She said she's also concerned about what will happen over the summer, when kids are out of school and don't have access to school meals.
"We know the programs are going to end - I mean, they just were never intended to go forever," she said. "And so, anything we can do to help our families adjust to the changes that are coming - if that's getting information sooner or being able to help them navigate through some of that stuff - that's what we want to do."
Jackson said food banks across Idaho are in need of volunteers and donations.