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Western NC nonprofits offer resources as SNAP pandemic benefits end


Food banks and non-profits in Western North Carolina are preparing for a wave of food insecurity in March, when Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP) emergency benefits that began during the pandemic come to an end.

“Right now we're preparing our partners for the influx of people that we anticipate are going come to their agencies,” Kara Irani, marketing and communications director with MANNA FoodBank, which serves 16 counties in Western North Carolina, said. Our food sourcing team is working very hard to ensure that we have enough to support additional people with supplemental food as well when they turn to us.

Under the plan which began in 2020, households received either an extra $95 each month or the maximum amount allowed for their household size, whichever was greater. According to NC Health and Human Services, an average of 900,000 North Carolina households received FNS emergency allotments. The department estimates the average benefit per person per day will decrease from $8.12 to $5.45.

“It's been a very challenging situation since the beginning of the pandemic for food banks and the charitable network, but it has also been incredibly inspiring to see the community rally around our neighbors who are just, they're facing a situation that they can't pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” Irani said.

She said the cost of living in the Asheville area puts a strain on families trying to meet basic needs.

“We know housing costs are absolutely as astronomical in our region, as well as food prices, fuel - all of that stuff. And so all of this pressure really does compile onto individual families.”

Where to get help:

SNAP Benefits: People who receive SNAP benefits should review their benefits amounts and household costs on the EBT Edge website, Irani said “If your housing costs have gone up, if your utility bills have gone up, if your income has gone down, if you have another kid, if you have somebody else in your household – those things can actually impact the amount of your monthly supplement.”

Anyone with questions about SNAP benefits, or food resources should contact the MANNA FoodBank helpline: 1-800-820-1109

Health care: North Carolina Medicaid Members with a Managed Care Medicaid plan may be eligible for food vouchers and other services to boost overall health through the Healthy Opportunities Pilot Program. For more information and eligibility information call (828) 278-9900 or visit impacthealth.org/hop.

Rent and Utilities: Households in need of food, help paying rent or bills, or other immediate assistance should call or contact 211 to find out the most current information about local resources and services.

 Legal assistance: Pisgah Legal Services  offers free legal assistance with certain tax issues through its new Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, created through grants from the Internal Revenue Service and Dogwood Health Trust. Call (828) 253-0406 or apply online at pisgahlegal.org.

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.