How is it already the beginning of September next week? We know a lot is changing with the ongoing pandemic and with kids going back to school. Just last week we heard of yet another change coming this fall...an overdue increase to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. That's right. In case you missed our email last week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) completed their re-evaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), which is the lowest cost of USDA's four food plans and is used to set SNAP benefit levels. After a comprehensive scientific review to determine the cost of a practical, nutritious and low-cost diet, the 2021 TFP was updated to reflect today's reality. As a result, SNAP benefits will increase an average of 21% compared to pre-pandemic benefit levels, starting on October 1.
Policy and Advocacy
SNAP: While the SNAP benefit increase noted above is very welcome, it is also modest and translates to an added $1.19 per person, per day, or 40 cents per meal.
In addition, SNAP participants will not see the full impact of this meaningful increase all at once, because Congress bumped up current benefit levels by 15% in response to the pandemic. This 15% increase will end September 30, right as the TFP benefits increase is set to begin. See our new flyer to learn more about the Permanent Increase to SNAP Benefits coming in October. We know these changes to SNAP benefit levels may be confusing, especially when coupled with SNAP Emergency Allotments (EAs). Please stay tuned as we continue to update you in coming months, particularly with EAs expected to expire at the end of the year.
Summer Meal Sites: With schools starting soon - and in-person! - that means school breakfast and lunch programs will resume after a long hiatus, when most districts in the region had pivoted to distributing boxed meals to students. This means that summer meal sites that remain in operation will be closing down, following the many that have phased out in recent weeks. Here are some updates on the largest summer meal providers:
- The School District of Philadelphia had its last distribution of Grab-n-Go Meals last Friday, Aug. 20, in anticipation of a full return to in-person learning.
- Philadelphia Parks and Recreation (PPR), which had over 300 active sites this summer - including the dedicated Playstreets volunteers throughout the city who hosted sites to feed their neighborhood - will have its final day of summer meals programming today, Aug. 27.
- Nutritional Development Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (NDS), which provides meals to sites throughout the 5-county southeast PA region, will also have its last day of service today, Aug. 27.
- Most other sponsors, including school districts in the suburban counties and the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), will have their last day of service today or have closed in the last week.
There are a small number of sites that will continue to provide meals next week, and we will update our summer meals map on Monday to reflect the latest information we can confirm. The City of Philadelphia continues to update its phila.gov/food site on a weekly basis (in addition to student meal sites, this resource includes food distribution, senior and outdoor feeding schedules and locations).
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): Big news this week on Pennsylvania's administration of WIC. Following a tumultuous Request for Applications (RFA) process, the PA Department of Health (DOH) abruptly announced on Tuesday that it would cancel the transition to new providers. Earlier this year, DOH had decided to terminate the contracts of several long-standing providers and transition WIC services to new agencies (in Philadelphia, North Inc. would have been replaced by Temple University). Many legislators had questioned the transparency of the bidding process, and we were among the advocates that expressed deep concerns about the impact the accelerated timeline of the transition would have upon clients. DOH has provided very little information about its reversal or what will happen next. You can read more in this Spotlight PA story: Wolf admin unexpectedly pulls the plug on controversial revamp of PA safety net program.
Save The Date!
The Coalition will host the 3rd Annual Night to Fight Hunger Gala on October 14, 2021 at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. Details coming soon.
We've now been working from home for over 1 year. While this has certainly created challenges for us as we strive to reach individuals experiencing food insecurity, it has also made educating the public and having important conversations about food insecurity more difficult. To help engage you all at home, we've created an Interactive Hunger Simulation that will put you in the shoes of someone experiencing food insecurity. This engaging activity, which will take 30-40 minutes to complete, will help you to see some of the barriers that food insecure individuals face. We invite you to complete the hunger simulation and share your experiences with us, and we hope that this activity encourages you to get more involved with our work at the Coalition! To get started, visit this link and click "Open with Google Slides" at the top of your screen. To help you as you complete the activity, we've also created accompanying worksheets. If you would prefer this activity as a Microsoft Powerpoint file, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Coalition Against Hunger SNAP Hotline team is here to help! Whether it's navigating the SNAP application process or providing case management, our SNAP Hotline team is available to help Monday – Thursday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and on Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Give our SNAP Hotline team a call at 215-430-0556.
And if you are looking to visit any of the County Assistance Offices (CAO), they are now open for in-person assistance. You can visit their offices or contact their Customer Service Center at 215-560-7226 (Philadelphia) or 877-395-8930 (statewide). For listings (phone numbers and addresses) of all Philadelphia County Assistance offices, please use this link.
Community Virtual Sharing Sessions
For the past year, the Coalition Against Hunger has been a community partner agency on the Philadelphia Department of Health's Task Force on Community Resources and Referral System. The task force wants to hear from anyone who has ever been told to "call this number" or "visit this website" for resources about their experiences. Help us spread the word about the upcoming virtual community sharing sessions taking place in September. Please share with your clients, neighbors, community members or anyone who has had experience with community resource referrals and systems and might be interested in participating in a sharing session. They can sign up for a session directly from the links provided on this flyer.