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A man reaching into a cooler
Ryan Steele, food operations specialist for Broomfield FISH Food Bank and Family Resource Center, reaches into a cooler on Jan. 27, 2023. (Jeremy Sparig, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Area nonprofits say they are preparing to fill the gap left by a cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The enhanced SNAP benefits gave low-income families more money for groceries during the height of the COVID pandemic.

An estimated 290,000 Colorado households will see a drop in their SNAP benefits starting this week. Families are still eligible for SNAP payments but they will now be set at regular, pre-pandemic levels, say officials.

Households will likely see at least $90 less in their monthly benefits, according to the state of Colorado.

Broomfield FISH is relying on its partnership with Lafayette’s Sister Carmen Center, Emergency Family Assistance Association in Boulder and Outreach United Resource Center in Longmont to make bulk purchases of food and clothing to aid families who previously got the enhanced SNAP payments, FISH Executive Director Dayna Scott said via email.

FISH is also working with Wee Cycle in Aurora to buy more diapers and baby formula for families in need, Scott said.

FISH has been planning for the reduction in SNAP benefits for a couple of months, she said.  SNAP cutbacks combined with inflation, rising housing costs, and rising food and gas prices, Scott said, is “creating the perfect storm for a surge in need among our low income residents.”

FISH has been preparing for a 20% increase in the number of people seeking help with food and in the pounds of food it distributes each month.

Besides stocking up for more visits to FISH’s Marketplace at its facility in Broomfield, FISH works with Community Food Share to host a mobile pantry twice a month and help oversee regular food deliveries in partnership with Door Dash, she said.

However, the biggest hurdle is procuring the food, Scott said. The organization leans heavily on donations of food from grocery stores and partner organizations, and on local food drives.

To fill gaps in demand for items such as meat, eggs, fresh produce and personal care supplies, FISH has increased its spending, from $67,000 in purchased food in 2019 to $227,000 in 2022. 

FISH applied for grants to help cover food costs and is working to raise the profile of programs that tap companies and groups to help fill shelves in the food bank, Scott said.

Inflation and the latest shift in SNAP benefits is showing up in the demographics of who is seeking help. Scott said the number of families in need is rising. 

“Remember, more than half of people we serve at FISH are children under the age of 18,” she said. “Children, and even more so teenage boys, eat more.”

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @monteWhaley