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Group Applauds SNAP Benefit Increase, Says Barriers Still Exist

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Friday, August 20, 2021   

BOSTON -- Groups working to end hunger in Massachusetts say the upcoming increase to SNAP benefits, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is an important step, but more could be done to boost access for those who need it.

SNAP enrollment went up more than 20% during the pandemic, but more than 600,000 people in Massachusetts are eligible and still not enrolled, according to a new report from Project Bread.

Erin McAleer, president and CEO of the group, said there is an awareness gap. Some people do not know about SNAP at all, and others are misinformed.

"SNAP is supposed to expand during economic downturns," McAleer explained. "So, if you need this program, you get it, and you're not taking it away from anybody else. And the reality is, a lot of people in low-wage jobs just aren't making enough to get by and to afford food, and they also are eligible."

The Biden administration last week announced new rules for SNAP, raising the average pre-pandemic benefit by 25%. McAleer argued the move is long overdue, but noted there is still a stigma.

Some respondents to Project Bread's survey said they worry about being judged, or they assume applying for benefits would affect their immigration status, which is not true.

McAleer pointed out the increase will mean roughly $36 more per month for Massachusetts SNAP recipients. She added other federal nutrition programs are available as well, such as WIC, the nutrition program for women, infants and children.

"We know that a lot of people, their SNAP benefits run out halfway through the month," McAleer observed. "And this, we hope, will allow them to meet their nutritional needs for all of the month, and to be able to purchase healthier food."

People facing food insecurity can call the Food Source Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 for information on resources. Project Bread has also launched a campaign to guarantee free breakfast and lunch for all students. If passed, Massachusetts would be the third state to do so, after California and Maine.


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