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Reports: Maryland Food Insecurity Skyrockets During Pandemic

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The number of Marylanders enrolled in the SNAP benefits program soared from 630,000 at the start of the year to almost 845,000 during the pandemic, a new report found. (Adobe stock)
The number of Marylanders enrolled in the SNAP benefits program soared from 630,000 at the start of the year to almost 845,000 during the pandemic, a new report found. (Adobe stock)
 By Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD - Producer, Contact
October 29, 2020

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Maryland is experiencing a hunger crisis during the pandemic, and schools will need to reach out to more low-income children with school breakfast programs to at least help kids get food, according to two new reports.

The first report shows a 400% increase in Maryland applicants to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in April after unemployment rose from pandemic shutdowns in March.

Michael J. Wilson, director of Maryland Hunger Solutions, which put out the reports, said the rise is historic.

But he noted even before the pandemic, about 630,000 Marylanders were already receiving SNAP benefits.

"Having 844,000 people using SNAP in a state that has six million residents is a tremendous percentage," Wilson emphasized. "And it's both because of historic inequities, historic poverty and the pandemic on top of that."

The second report noted a rise in Maryland's childhood hunger during the pandemic and that breakfast programs in schools are needed more than ever.

But last school year, only about 62 Maryland low-income students ate school breakfast for every 100 who ate school lunch.

Wilson said when schools reopen, counties will have to shift how they provide breakfasts to boost those numbers.

He pointed to an innovative federal program that's helping right now, called "Pandemic-EBT," which gives families electronic benefit cards to buy food if their children have lost access to free school meals.

But he said the election next week could make or break some government assistance.

"Because most of these programs are federal programs, SNAP, school meals, whatever happens in the election is going to have an impact on how we deal with these issues going forward," Wilson explained. "And so, food insecurity is on the ballot next Tuesday as well."

During non-pandemic times, Wilson said the minimum benefit for people enrolled in SNAP is 16 dollars a month. The state supplements that amount, so Marylanders age 62 and older get at least $30 a month.

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