Bell County food pantries expect higher demand due to SNAP changes

The bipartisan national debt ceiling agreement introduces new work requirements for recipients
Local food pantries like Helping Hands Ministry expect more families utilizing their resources if the recipients can't get a job
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 7:41 PM CDT
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BELL COUNTY, Texas (KWTX) - More than 3.4 million Texans currently receive SNAP benefits, according to the nonprofit Every Texan. That number could soon decrease due to new changes to the federal program under the national debt ceiling agreement.

President Joe Biden recently signed the bipartisan agreement into law, creating new work requirements for Americans covered by the federal SNAP program.

Under the agreement, Americans must now be 54 years or younger and work to receive their benefits. Previously those work requirements only existed for anyone 49 years or younger.

”I potentially see some families that are going to need help getting more groceries, because they’re now being required to work,” Alicia Jallah, executive director for Helping Hands Ministry told KWTX.

This comes almost three months after emergency SNAP benefits ended in the state of Texas.

Local food pantries like Helping Hands Ministry are feeling the effects of this firsthand. Before March, they saw on average 400 families per week. Since then that number has risen to 500 families per week.

”We’re seeing a whole lot of new families needing assistance that never have before, about 96 new families every single month,” Jallah said.

Given the new work requirements for SNAP, workers at the United Way of Central Texas call center expect to give more referrals to community resources like Workforce Solutions of Central Texas.

”If you’re not working and you’re looking for a job, employers are looking at,when was the last time you worked,” Veshell Greene, vice president of resource development for United Way of Central Texas, said. “They might have to explore those extra certifications and trainings.”

For some though, no job means no more benefits. It’s a demand that Helping Hands Ministry says they’re ready to meet.

”We always say that if someone comes to us hungry we will make sure that they are fed,” Jallah said.