The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is often called 'the first line of defense against hunger,' and it's out of reach for half of Ohioans who need it.
Food insecurity impacted 1.5 million Ohioans before the pandemic, which means 13% of the population struggled at times to access food due to a lack of money or resources.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, explained half of food insecure Ohioans are ineligible for federal food benefits.
"They're hungry, but they earn too much to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program," Hamler-Fugitt outlined. "And that's just wrong. These are our friends and neighbors that are playing by all the rules but yet are really struggling just to make ends meet."
As Congress starts to review federal child-nutrition programs, advocates are calling for temporary pandemic-related hunger programs to be made permanent, including the summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program, expanded free school meals and increased SNAP emergency allotments.
Additionally, Hamler-Fugitt argued an appropriation for the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program in the American Families Plan could help alleviate hunger among people with low-incomes, including older adults.
With the state's biennial budget under Senate review, Hamler-Fugitt emphasized more support is needed for the Ohio Food Program and Agriculture Clearance Program, which provide food banks with products and resources to help their clients put food on the table.
"We're seeing sustained need and rapidly rising food costs," Hamler-Fugitt observed. "And we are asking the Senate to show their support of food banks by providing a one-time, temporary two-year, increase of $20 million per year to help us weather the storm."
She added food banks need help now more than ever, as do many Ohioans.
"The economic recovery appears to be coming for some, but low-income, working poor families, we estimate that it could take them at least two more years to get back to where they were, and charitable food assistance needs to be there in order to keep up with the demand," Hamler-Fugitt asserted.
Feeding America estimates 14% of Ohioans, including 19% of children, may experience food insecurity in 2021.