Lawton Food Bank sees influx of families after state assistance reduced

Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 7:07 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - The Lawton Food Bank says more people have been turning to them for help after emergency COVID supplements were cut from SNAP benefits at the end of February.

Mac Lechel, the executive director of the Lawton Food Bank, said, “The moment those SNAP benefits ended, our line was drastically longer than it’s ever been, even during the holidays. So we can recognize that impact directly given our numbers and the timing.”

Officials with the food bank say that last March they served 1,279 families, which was a drastic spike compared to March of 2022, where they only served 732 families.

“We have had to pull back the amount of food that we were giving to clients. Previously our goal we are still meeting our goal of about 10-12 days worth of food, but last year we we’re able to do much better,” said Lechel.

The SNAP program was expanded in 2020 to help families get through the height of the pandemic, and the Department of Human Services says they saw a massive spike in applicants.

“There were so many families that were not able to return to jobs, or needed to stay home with their children, or their income changed drastically during those months, so we did see record high numbers of SNAP recipients during that time period,” said Amy Roberts, the deputy director of food and energy at the Department of Human Services.

But that all changed with federal funding stopped: specifically when the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 was passed.

Roberts added, “It was passed earlier this year, and it required all states to end the supplements in February. So that just returned the benefits back to the pre-pandemic benefit levels.”

Without those increased benefits, people are relying more on community resources like the Lawton Food Bank and the Salvation Army, which has also recently struggled with demand.

“As our numbers increase, we are worried that we may have to adjust our goal when it comes to feeding the community,” Lechel said.