At a food pantry in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, the line begins some days more than an hour before the doors open and has been growing steadily – from about 50 to 60 people earlier this year to more than 75 in recent months.
Francheska Serrano, who runs the Visitation Community Center’s pantry operations, said those waiting in line are grappling with the continued rise in the price of food and a decrease in pandemic-era benefits for everything from groceries for rent.
“I’m definitely seeing a lot of new faces and an increase in people coming to our pantry,” Serrano said. “I can only assume that this will continue, especially with a reduction in food benefits.”
Despite historically low unemployment and rising wages, the need for food assistance has increased this year, according to government data, consumer surveys and interviews with nonprofit organizations. But on Capitol Hill, cutting food aid has become the focus of the latest budget battle that could come to a head by the end of the month, when key pieces of funding legislation expire.
Congressional Republicans imposed new restrictions on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, during negotiations earlier this year over raising the government’s debt ceiling. But some are considering adding new restrictions to the program and scaling back benefit increases as they negotiate a new farm bill before the current law expires on September 30.
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