On Friday Jan. 22, President Biden signed an executive order to widen the reach of nutrition assistant programs in an effort to address the hunger crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden’s order will increase the amount of money struggling families receive for food each month and provide additional meal money for vulnerable students whose schools have been closed.
Biden’s executive order follows the $900 billion stimulus package passed by Congress in December. Although this package enhanced SNAP benefits for all recipients through June 2021, it did not expand benefits for households already receiving maximum benefit. The new order directs aid to the neediest families.
The coronavirus has exposed and deepened the pervasiveness of food insecurity across America. Researchers at Northwestern University found that the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic has caused food insecurity to impact more than 23% of households in 2020, double than the year before. A separate study from Northwestern University found that food insecurity rates have more than tripled among households with children to 29.5%. The increase of food insecurity rates in Maryland reflects these findings: Before the pandemic, 1.5 million residents considered themselves to be food insecure. There are now estimated to be 1 million more.
SNAP is considered to be one of the most effective anti-poverty government programs, especially for children. Advocates for SNAP expansion praise Biden’s order, but believe more must be done to combat growing levels of food insecurity. Indeed, the SNAP program had been the target of cuts and restrictions by the Trump administration. The Biden administration must continue to expand federal funding for the program in order to minimize the high rates of food insecurity.
“We have the tools to help people,” President Biden said on the executive order.. “So let’s use the tools. All of them. Now.”
Jessica Kaplan, Bucknell Class of 2021, Baltimore Hunger Project Intern
Whitmore Schanzenbach, Diane, and Abigail Pitts. How Much Has Food Insecurity Risen? Evidence from the Census Household Pulse Survey. 10 June 2020
Board, Baltimore Sun Editorial. “Maryland’s Other Epidemic – Hunger – Isn’t Going Away: COMMENTARY.” Baltimoresun.com, Baltimore Sun, 24 Nov. 2020