Reduction in SNAP benefits has detrimental effects on Oregon

Nidhi Nair, Editor-in-Chief

The beginning of March brought a tremendous change for more than 720,000 Oregonians, notably the reduction of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, around 17 percent of Oregon residents receive supplemental nutrition assistance, which ranks as the fifth highest proportion in the country.


Federal funding during the COVID-19 pandemic increased many households’ food stamp benefits to about $450 each month, allowing them to have easier access to food resources. Fast forward to today, many of these benefits are no longer in effect, and the average benefits of households are now around just $270. The Oregon Food Bank states that “Now that the federal COVID-19 state of emergency is ending, federal funding for these SNAP ‘emergency allotments’ will also expire.”


As the program returns to its original pre-pandemic benefits and the emergency allotments dissolve, approximately “one in six Oregonians will ultimately see a minimum loss of $95 for groceries each month,” the Oregon Food Bank states. “Families will face a 40 percent reduction in benefits on average, even as the price of food and housing continues to rise.”


In response to such a significant adjustment for food-insecure communities, the Oregon Department of Human Services and the Oregon Department of Education have pledged to allocate $391 to all children eligible for the SNAP program in Oregon through electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. Children qualify for receiving these extra resources if they were eligible for reduced or free meals within the 2021-2022 National School Lunch Program, or were enrolled in the SNAP program in the summer of 2022 below the age of six.


The transition into reduced food benefits has additionally shown a detrimental effect on local food banks and pantries with a skyrocketing demand. Notably, Lake Oswego’s local food pantry Hunger Fighters Oregon has experienced a tremendous increase in guests visiting the pantry since the reduction of SNAP benefits. Especially with the high prices in grocery stores due to inflation, many food insecure individuals rely on places like food banks to receive their groceries and hygiene items. As a result, the Oregon legislature plans on sending $7.5 million to the Oregon Food Bank through House Bill 5045, which was strongly advocated by Governor Kotek.


Both representing Oregon districts in Congress and serving on the House Agriculture Committee, Representatives Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R) and Andrea Salinas (D) have displayed contrasting perspectives about the food benefits. Oregon Live states that “Chavez-DeRemer signed onto an early effort by Republicans to restrict the supplemental nutrition, or SNAP, benefits, a perennial goal of conservatives during negotiations. Salinas is wary of the proposal.”


In addition to the change in food stamps, Chavez-DeRemer and other Republican representatives are cosponsoring another bill titled the America Works Act, which would create stricter work requirements for SNAP participants and make it more difficult for states to waive the requirements.


In light of all of these changes and the negative impacts that they may have, community involvement and input can be a powerful asset in demanding action and supporting food security. By submitting testimony to your representatives against the America Works Act, donating to local food banks and food pantries like Hunger Fighters, or spreading awareness, we can all collectively contribute to a healthier, nourished Oregon with easier access to reliable food resources and SNAP benefits.