by Susan Tebben, Ohio Capital Journal
June 7, 2023
A statewide study shows inflation and the lapse in pandemic-era help are causing Ohioans to have to choose between food and other necessities.
The Ohio Association of Foodbanks conducted an anonymous study that garnered more than 2,000 responses from residents in 33% of Ohio ZIP codes.
The results showed nearly 2 in 3 Ohio households have adults who have “cut the size of meals or skipped meals because there wasn’t enough money for food” in the last year, with 1 in 3 doing so almost monthly.
Of the foodbanks clients who participated in the survey, 68% said they had to choose between paying for food and paying for transportation or gas, 66% had to choose between food and utilities payments, 55% between medicine/health care or food, and half had to sacrifice either food or housing to make ends meet.
The study also looked at the effectiveness of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), finding that only 5% of SNAP participants said their benefits lasted a full month since the end of expanded SNAP benefits implemented as part of COVID-19 assistance. The program expansion ended in March.
According to the OAF, the ending of that program negatively impacted 1.5 million Ohioans, who lost an average of $90 per person, per month.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director for the OAF, called the results “deeply troubling and illustrate that we still have a long way to go to ensure that every Ohioan has access to health and affordable food.”
“No Ohioans should have to choose between a meal and medicine they need, but that’s the reality many of our neighbors are dealing with too often right now,” Hamler-Fugitt stated in announcing the study results.
With the study results showing increased need, the foodbanks urged the state and federal government to include “safeguards” for nutrition programs in Ohio and U.S. budgets.
That would include $50 million for a public-private partnership called the Ohio Food Program and Agricultural Clearance Program, which would bring “direct surplus and unmarketable agricultural products from nearly 100 Ohio farmers and producers through the state’s network of foodbanks,” according to the biennial funding request made by the association.
A state-funded minimum SNAP benefit for older Ohioans is also on the request list for the OAF. Monthly SNAP allotments of $50 would impact 70,000 one-to-two person households of 60 and older, according to the foodbanks.
Federally, the foodbanks are eyeing the 2023 Farm Bill, in which they say Congress could commit to “critical anti-hunger programs,” including the Emergency Food Assistance Program, along with the federal SNAP investment.
“SNAP benefits should be set at an adequate level so families can purchase healthy foods,” the OAF stated, adding that benefits would also help people with disabilities and low-wage workers.
According to the association, eliminating the pandemic-era SNAP benefits removed $126 million in “grocery-buying power” from those 1.5 million Ohioans it impacted.
The foodbanks have already made a push for federal officials to refuse budget cuts and policy changes to food assistance, including cuts to Medicaid coverage. Without food assistance and Medicaid coverage, Ohioans risk “worsening health outcomes, higher health care costs, increased housing instability and homelessness” along with rising rates of hunger, Hamler-Fugitt said last month.
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