CLEVELAND — As of February, the three year pandemic-related increase in SNAP benefits is over.
One in three Cleveland households is directly affected by that change.
Now, the city is partnering with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority to host produce pop-ups to support families and make up for that loss.
Tiffany Scruggs, VP of Client Services at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, knows the importance of having access to SNAP benefits.
“Life happens,” she said. “So, when I went to the University of Toledo, I had to rely on SNAP, which is food stamps. That still continues to be our country's largest defense against hunger.”
She said her team is doing what they can to help her clients cope with a reduction in those benefits.
“We do the best that we can to stretch and provide and serve as many people as possible,” she said. “Last year, we reached almost 350,000 individuals. However, we can't supplement for that loss. That is a huge loss.”
The average Ohio household was receiving $95 in extra pandemic allotments, but Scruggs said some of her clients were getting between $200 and $300 dollars, and she said, the impact will reach beyond just those families.
“That does not just impact the individuals who are receiving the benefit,” she said. “It impacts the entire economy. For example, that's less money to support our EBT retailers. That's our farmers. That's our local grocery stores. So, they've built their staffing based on this additional revenue that they've been receiving throughout these years.”
CEO of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, Jeffery K. Patterson, said a lot of the folks they serve don’t always have access to fresh produce.
“This is one of those areas where some folks may consider it to be a food desert,” Patterson said. “But I think what we've been able to do in partnership with the food bank and others is try to make these available at a lot of our properties.”
Mary McNamara, Director of Aging for the City of Cleveland, said the loss of these extra benefits will also take a toll on many seniors in the community.
“Senior hunger is real,” McNamara said. “We know seniors, we hear on the phone every day seniors for whom this ending of the emergency allotment has reduced their SNAP benefits for some more than more than $200.”
But at these pop-ups, anyone in need is welcome.
“Love to see the kids. Love to just see community members here,” Scruggs said. “It's a great day once again. Next time, we'll have the barbecue grill going and the speaker playing, all right?”
The pop-ups will provide free produce on a first-come-first-served basis at Collinwood Neighborhood Resource & Recreation Center (16300 Lakeshore Blvd.) on the first Wednesday of each month from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., at Michael Zone Neighborhood Resource & Recreation Center (6301 Lorain Ave.) on the third Monday of each month from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and at East 59th St. & Haltnorth Ct. (in the parking lot across from the Boys & Girls Club) from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the second Friday of each month.
The city and their partners plan to continue doing them throughout the summer as needed by the community.