Food bank races to stop families from walking over ‘financial cliff’

Patricia Hendricks pushed a walker into a cool breeze Friday morning and waited at the curb, unable to reach a Food Bank truck in the parking lot near her apartment northwest of downtown Tulsa.

But the chef wouldn’t let her go hungry. He grabbed several bags of prepared meals and ran across the parking lot to deliver them.

“These will last me a good while,” Hendricks said. “I eat like a bird.”

The Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is redoubling efforts to distribute meals and groceries across the Tulsa area after SNAP emergency services, which began at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, ended in late February. This week alone, the local nonprofit prepared 2,500 emergency meal boxes, provided an additional 25 tons of fresh produce and distributed 21,000 frozen meals in response to the return of SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to pre-pandemic levels.

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Oklahoma will receive $50 million less monthly in SNAP funding from the federal government, a food bank official said.

“I double-checked that number because I thought it must have been a typo,” said Food Bank spokeswoman Diana Capra. “I didn’t think it could be that big.”

Nationwide, however, food aid programs are losing $2.5 billion a month, she said. Families with children lose an average of $223 in monthly benefits, while seniors lose an average of $168 a month.

Of course, by definition, “emergency funding” was never meant to be permanent. The additional SNAP resources should only mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19.

But emergency funds are running out as food prices soar and wages stagnate, putting increasing pressure on family budgets, said Calvin Moore, president and CEO of the Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.

“If you’ve had that extra money in your budget for three years and it suddenly cuts off,” Moore said, “it’s a financial cliff for those families.”

The Food Bank supplies food to more than 400 partner agencies to distribute meals and groceries in 24 counties in eastern Oklahoma.

The cuts in SNAP funding will require a “substantial response” from the food bank and its partners, Moore said.

“Families shouldn’t have to choose between leaving the lights on and feeding their children,” he said. “Seniors shouldn’t have to choose between leaving the lights on, buying medicine, or buying groceries.”

Video: Millions at risk of falling into poverty after pandemic SNAP benefits expire

A large cross-section of Americans is at risk of falling below the poverty line as the program, which has provided additional SNAP benefits to more than 32 million people during the pandemic, is phased out. Families received at least an extra $95 a month to spend on groceries.


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