Food banks to receive $1.68M in face of SNAP delays

Food banks to receive $1.68M in face of SNAP delays
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 6:48 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Department of Health is offering funds to purchase food for Alaskans waiting for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to come through.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration announced Monday it had awarded $1.68 million to four regional food banks to buy food in bulk to distribute to hungry communities around the state.

The Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Food Bank of Alaska, Kenai Peninsula Food Bank and Southeast Alaska Food Bank will be distributing the food to 150 food pantries across the state.

Ron Meehan with the Food Bank of Alaska said the funding comes at a time when many food banks are struggling with increased demand brought on by a large backlog in processing food benefits known as SNAP.

“Alaska’s anti-hunger network has just not had the capacity to really meet the need created by the gap from the SNAP backlog,” said Meehan. “And it’s come at a difficult time where the amount of food that we’ve been able to distribute has really seen a significant decline of about 35% between 2022 and 2021.”

Meehan said increased food prices, a decline in government subsidies and reduced donations have all contributed to the problem. This, in turn, has forced some food pantries to limit visits, ration food or reduce their hours. He said the one-time funding would help, at least temporarily.

“At least for the next couple of weeks, once it’s out there it will play a huge role in making sure that people are not going hungry,” he said.

State Health Commissioner Heidi Hedberg said in a press conference Monday that the state is making progress in processing SNAP renewal applications.

“There is just a lot of effort that is happening within the Department of Health and with all of our partner organizations,” she said. “So I really want to underscore that this really is an all hands on deck situation.”

Hedberg said the department has caught up through October and is currently processing about 5,000 applications from November, December and January.

She said it will take a dedicated team working on those applications about two months to complete them.