SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As COVID cases rise and people get ready to receive new booster shots, many people and families who were given aid during the pandemic to buy food are now reporting having to go without.
New data shows just how many households are struggling with nutrition and food insecurity.
32 states provided additional food assistance throughout the pandemic. That assistance ended on March 1 and was a result of special pandemic aid, known as "Emergency Allotments." According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in four households that received extra help to buy food are reporting "sometimes" or "often" not having enough to eat.
"Pre-pandemic, we were feeding about 150,000 people each month. Now, we're averaging closer to 270,000, so that's about an 80% increase over the past three years. And a lot of that has to do with inflation," said Kevin Buffalino, with the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. "Prices are sky high right now, especially on groceries and gas, housing, all of that."
The exact reduction in benefits varied by household size and income. But households received at least $95 less per month.
These estimations are now consistent with states that chose not to participate in emergency allotment programs.
"A low-income family typically spends about a third of their budget on groceries, so they don't have a lot of additional spending," said Buffalino. "They'll have to make those really hard choices between, 'Do I pay rent this month? Do I put gas in my car'?"
That's where food banks and government programs help fill the gaps.
More than 137,000 households in Sacramento County, that's 253,000 people, benefit from CalFresh. The monthly grocery money comes from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and gets distributed by the CalFresh program in California.
Food insecurity and a lack of access to nutrition is a rising public health issue in the United States. The CDC said it is associated with poor health outcomes, like Type Two Diabetes.