(Colorado News Connection) As the cost of groceries continues to soar, SNAP benefits boosted to help families during the pandemic are back to pre-COVID levels. Even with increased benefits, one in three Coloradans didn't know where they would get their next meal.
Nearly half of households with children struggled to access nutritious food, according to Hunger Free Colorado's most recent survey.
Zahira Diaz-Hernandez, client empowerment coordinator for the group, said families across the state are losing $53 million each month in food assistance.
"That's about an average reduction of about $90 per person," Diaz-Hernandez explained. "For our older Coloradans, who are on fixed incomes and only qualify for the minimum benefits, their cut will go from around $250 a month to about $23 a month."
There are disparities in need, as 43 percent of Colorado's people of color struggle to put food on the table, compared to 29 percent of whites.
Colorado lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 27, to provide more stable funding for the Colorado Food Pantry Assistance Grant Program, which helps pantries get produce, dairy and meat from local producers. If you or someone you know needs help, call Hunger Free Colorado's Food Resource Hotline toll-free at 855-855-4626.
Advocates are also asking lawmakers to increase funding for the state's SNAP Outreach Program to keep operating at capacity. Diaz-Hernandez emphasized the program is a proven way to reach eligible families.
"An estimated 35-40 percent of families who are eligible for SNAP are currently not participating in the program," Diaz-Hernandez pointed out. "Reasons vary from families not knowing they qualify, to feeling stigmatized about needing assistance."
In 2021, the program helped some 32,000 Colorado households apply for SNAP. Diaz-Hernandez stressed the work brought $47 million in federal funding to Colorado's grocery stores, generating more than $71 million in overall economic activity.
"Every dollar that the state invests in the SNAP outreach program brings around $12 in federal food benefits directly to Colorado families and the economy," Diaz-Hernandez reported.