Food banks in Indiana distributed enough food to provide 125 million meals in 2020. (USDA/Flickr)
March 17, 2021
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s food-assistance network is welcoming parts of the new federal COVID-relief package that will help in the fight against hunger.
The American Rescue Plan extends a 15% boost in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by three months, to Sept. 30. Additional funding will expand vouchers used by families to replace missed school meals, and for food-assistance programs for low-income older adults, and low-income women with children.
Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of the group Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, said the pandemic’s economic impact is widespread, with 1.2 million Hoosiers at risk for hunger.
“Our clients will really be the last to see the economic recovery; we saw that with the Great Recession,” she said. “And so, we’re expecting and looking for families to need help for a year or two, or five, to come.”
Bryant added that the stimulus payments, plus extending unemployment benefits and rental assistance, also will help families who are struggling. Roughly 35% of Indiana residents recently reported challenges in paying their usual household expenses because of the pandemic.
Anti-hunger advocates will meet virtually with members of Congress this week to talk about additional policy needs. Bryant said that includes funding to expand infrastructure at food banks and food pantries in Indiana, which distributed 60% more food last year than in 2019.
“Our members distributed 156 million pounds of food in 2020,” she said. “We’re also seeing more and more perishable products come through, which is outstanding, but we’ve had to increase our needs for coolers, freezers and refrigerated trucks and trailers.”
She noted that other priorities include improving this next child nutrition reauthorization bill by expanding access to programs for underserved children and streamlining their operations, as well as expanding the alterative meal-distribution models used during the pandemic.