Food is integral to our health, longevity, and well-being. However, for too many Americans, uncertainty about having enough food is a source of anxiety – they may have to choose between bill payments and grocery expenses, determine how to stretch what’s in the cupboard till the end of the month, or parents may sacrifice a meal so their children can have more food on their plates. From the Lakewood Community Health Needs Assessment, one in 10 Lakewood residents rely on federal food assistance. Another one in ten residents earn too much but qualify for emergency food.
In the United States 34 million people (10% of the population), including 9 million children, are food insecure. The federal government measures food security as a household’s ability to provide enough food at all times for every person in the household to have an active and healthy life. Food insecurity and the lack of access to nutritious and affordable food are associated with increased risk for multiple health conditions, including mental health disorders and chronic diseases. People from racial and ethnic minorities and socially disadvantaged populations are disproportionately affected by food insecurity.
In the United States, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly known as the Food Stamp Program – is a federal benefit that provides nutritional support to households with low incomes. It is considered America’s most effective anti-hunger initiative. In April 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Congress approved temporary SNAP emergency allotments (EAs) to help U.S. households purchase food. A recent study estimates that these emergency allotments kept 4.2 million people above the poverty line.
With the announcement of the end of the federal government’s Covid-19 public health emergency, the SNAP emergency allotments which were tied to the health order ended at the beginning of this March.
In Lakewood, it is reported that 2,852 households receive SNAP benefits. It is estimated that there will be a reduction in benefits by at least $95 per person per month, but for many families that reduction will be much more.
Hunger and food insecurity are expected to climb in the coming months as the end of this benefit is happening at a time in which the U.S. is experiencing the highest rate of food inflation since 1979. The consumer price index (CPI) for grocery store or supermarket purchases was 10.2% higher in February 2023 than it was in February 2022.
Lakewood residents in need can call the Lakewood Community Services Center (LCSC) which has been providing twice monthly home delivery to 1,200 households in Lakewood, Rocky River, and Westlake since the start of the pandemic. LCSC provides monthly food deliveries to seniors in four subsidized housing buildings in Lakewood and one in Rocky River.
The Lakewood Department of Human Services also provides congregate meals and home delivery services to older adults in need.
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank has been preparing to meet the increasing needs for food due to the end of the SNAP EAs. Greater Cleveland Food Bank staff can help families register for SNAP benefits and support them in applying for the maximum allowable benefit.
Harvest for Hunger is one the largest annual, community-wide food and funds drive in our region that runs from March through May. For those who can afford to donate, financial support to Harvest for Hunger can be added to your grocery bill in the checkout line with the push of one button.
Since March 2020, the Healthy Lakewood Foundation has funded the Lakewood Community Services Center to provide food and nutrition support to Lakewood residents in need. HLF has also funded the Department of Human Services, Asian Services in Action, LLC, Lakewood Charitable Assistance Corporation, the Barton Senior Center, and Trials for Hope to support other community-based food security services.
For more information on how the ending of SNAP EAs will impact us locally and throughout the state, please read this briefing from the Center for Community Solutions.
In the coming months, HLF will convene local organizations addressing food insecurity in our community to consider opportunities for collaboration to increase support. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.