Texas food banks are hitting near pandemic highs and organizations are turning to state legislatures for help

Grocery prices are up about 13% year-on-year. It’s even worse when it comes to certain products like eggs — which are up about 30%.

“Texans everywhere are struggling with rising food prices. But for people living on limited incomes, it’s become much more difficult for them to max out their money,” said Celia Cole, CEO of Feeding Texas, the state’s largest network of food banks

Cole said these food banks are currently seeing more people in lines — in some cases with lines as long as they have been during the pandemic.

Cole said that while she acknowledges that Texas lawmakers have “bigger things on their radar” heading into the 2023 legislative session, she also believes the pandemic has made food insecurity more visible.

“I think everyone now understands that while hunger is a problem that we cannot ignore, it is certainly a problem that we can afford to solve,” she said.

To that end, Feeding Texas has published a list of five priorities for the upcoming legislature. Chief among them, Cole said, is an increase in the Surplus Agricultural Products Grant.

“It helps us buy surplus product that can’t be sold,” said Cole. “Due to market conditions or defects, it is not for sale. Surplus AG Grant helps us catch and rescue these produce and get them to the tables of hungry families. So we asked the Legislature to double funding for this grant from $10 million to $20 million.”

Your other suggestions have to do with SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, colloquially known as food stamps. To be eligible for SNAP, families must not exceed a certain net worth — and that includes the value of their vehicles. Cole said the values ​​set for vehicles need to be raised significantly.

“These values ​​have not been updated for the first car for 20 years [owned by a family], and for additional cars, the value will be set at a level that was set back in 1973,” said Cole. “So this law would link those values ​​to inflation to ensure people aren’t forced to choose between a reliable car and food aid when they need it.”

Cole said other SNAP priorities include maintaining “a pandemic-era policy allowing certain college students enrolled in professional or technical training programs to be eligible for SNAP,” as well as creating “a pre-registration process for Individuals leaving the criminal justice system”. ”

People exiting the criminal justice system are already eligible for SNAP, but Cole said pre-registration “would help ensure they get connected when they get out.”

Finally, Feeding Texas wants lawmakers to create a pilot program to “allow Medicaid reimbursement for Food RX or food-as-medicine programs such as Medically Tailored Meals.”

Cole said all Texans can help support their local food banks by donating money and time and telling lawmakers that supporting food security should be a priority.

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