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SNAP benefits changes affect local food pantry

No changes being made to benefit amount

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Changes are coming for millions of Americans who rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to feed their families.

Starting in April, the date people receive their benefits will change. However, it will not affect the amount of benefits families get.

At Nourishment Network’s food pantry on Philips Highway, the SNAP benefits changes has led to twice as many people going there to get food. It's been a challenge for people receiving SNAP benefits as well.

Shannon Rivers is a single mother whose top priority is making sure her 2-year-old daughter Kailyee and her two other sons have food on the table. But for Rivers it’s not always easy.

“It's kind of hard because my youngest son has a disability so sometimes I'm not able to work as I need to,” Rivers said. “So it will be very hard for us to keep food on the table as much as I need to.”

This is why the SNAP benefits she receives every month mean so much to her. It is also why she said she was devastated to learn the date she receives the benefits every month will change.

“I get mine at the beginning of the month on the seventh and then they are saying we are going to get it on the middle of the month by the 17th,” Rivers said. “How are we supposed to survive until the middle of the month and we are barely making ends meet as it is now?”

Currently SNAP pickup dates are assigned to customers over a 15-day period. The new dates will spread them out over a 28-day period.

The Florida Department of Children and Families said it is making the change so local grocery stores can spread out food inventory better during the month and keep commonly purchased items available to their customers. But, for local food pantries it’s having another effect.

Jason Clark with Nourishment Network said it has been hard to keep up with that unexpected demand.

“Where we once were serving 100 people now we are serving 200 people,” Clark said. “And that's just in a short period of time.”

Clark anticipates the demand will stay the same when the changes go into effect in April.

"Now people understand that if they are still trying to make ends meet they still have the food stamps,” Clark said. “But now they are understanding food pantries can assist them with those extra items that they may not be able to get.”

Clark said he’s happy to do what they can for families like Rivers.

March will be a transition month where SNAP recipients will get half their benefits on their new date and the other half on their old date, before the changes become permanent in April.

“You know we’ll just have to deal with the changes as they come,” Rivers said. “I can't complain about it I just have to be grateful for it.”

You can find more information about the SNAP benefit changes here.