Earlier this month, we asked you to lend your voice to help us advocate for a 15% increase to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to be included in U.S. Senate negotiations for the next COVID-19 response act.
On Monday the 27th, the U.S. Senate introduced their latest version called the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools, or HEALS act. Unfortunately, the HEALS act falls short of what is needed to help hungry families in Central Florida. Specifically, the bill does not include a necessary 15 percent increase for SNAP. Not boosting SNAP benefits, the first line of defense against hunger in our nation, is a missed opportunity to support families struggling with hunger — many for the first time — during this pandemic and the unprecedented economic downturn.
Since March 23rd, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida had distributed 24 million meals and counting to our six-county service area. Yet, for every meal that food banks, just like Second Harvest provides, SNAP provides the equivalent of nine meals. We cannot do nine times what we are already doing. Charity cannot fight the growing hunger alone and we believe this must be an issue tackled by both government and charities. During the Great Recession, every SNAP $1 spent, generated $1.54 into the local economy. SNAP can be an important economic boost for Central Florida that is very much needed.
This bill does not include the necessary commodities and capacity support through The Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP, that will allow food banks to continue to meet the demand that is taking place in their communities. People we serve are waiting in hours-long lines to get food. Without critical investments in food, funds to transport and store the increased food, and the capacity to feed millions more families during this economic downturn, food banks like Second Harvest will not be able to meet the meal gap in Central Florida.
Second Harvest Food Bank estimates that an additional 214,000 children and individuals are facing food insecurity in 2020 due to the pandemic, totaling 650,000 Central Floridians struggling against hunger. Second Harvest Food Bank and other community resources cannot meet the need on their own. Charity, business and the government must work together to ensure that families in this country — many of whom are facing hunger for the first time due to his pandemic — are not forced to choose between putting food on the table or a roof over their head. We stand ready to work with Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to ensure a final stimulus bill includes a boost to SNAP benefits and other improvements that will help millions of people facing hunger.