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Groups Fear More Hunger in ND from Proposed SNAP Change

About 9% of North Dakota households experienced food insecurity between 2015 and 2017. (kuarmungadd/Adobe Stock)
About 9% of North Dakota households experienced food insecurity between 2015 and 2017. (kuarmungadd/Adobe Stock)
September 3, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. – Anti-hunger groups in North Dakota fear that a proposed change to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will lead to more people going without food.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says he wants to close a loophole in eligibility for SNAP benefits.

Under the current rule, qualified recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits are automatically enrolled in SNAP.

North Dakota and 42 other states use the rule to streamline the process for receiving food benefits.

Karen Ehrens, coordinator for the Creating a Hunger Free North Dakota Coalition, says changing this rule could hit seniors and children hardest.

"It could mean that people in North Dakota could get hungrier and that's just the exact opposite direction,” she states. “We're trying to turn things around in North Dakota."

The new rule could kick an estimated 3.1 million people off SNAP nationwide, and 265,000 children would no longer be automatically qualified for free lunches at school.

The USDA is accepting public comment on the proposal through Sept. 23.

Ehrens' coalition has been ramping up its operations, including providing more fresh food options around the state and more summer lunch meals for school-age children.

But she says hunger has increased in North Dakota over the past decade, and between 2015 and 2017, 28,700, or about 9% of households, did not have enough food for a healthy lifestyle.

Ehrens notes that a drop in the number of people with food benefits also affects communities, including grocery stores and farmers markets.

"It's not only that families have less help to purchase food, but the places where we purchase food would see impacts as well," she points out.

To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, the Creating a Hunger Free North Dakota Coalition is holding a summit in Bismarck on Sept. 24.

The coalition will be looking at why food insecurity rates are increasing and proposing potential solutions.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND