Since April 2020, all Illinois SNAP households have received both regular monthly benefits and an emergency SNAP allotment to address increased food insecurity challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. February 2023 was the last month for SNAP households to receive the emergency SNAP allotment. This is a decrease between $95 and $255 per household per month, impacting two million people in our state. When the price of groceries is at its highest, this adjustment of benefits will be especially difficult for people struggling to stretch their dollars and those struggling with food insecurity.
What does this mean for Loaves & Fishes? We expect to see many of our pre-pandemic clients return for food assistance. This, coupled with the already record number of people we serve, will present new challenges for our agency as we try to meet this increasing demand for food assistance services.
Since the beginning of 2023, we have consistently served close to 2,000 households containing 7,000 residents a week, exactly double the number we were serving a year ago. While the client increase can be attributed in part to the expansion of our service area, inflation has played an even bigger role. Our market alone has seen a 50% increase in client visits. Loaves & Fishes has struggled with the rise of food costs, especially when purchasing eggs, cereal, and some types of meat.
What are we doing? Loaves & Fishes is collaborating with area faith communities and Edward-Elmhurst Health to open new distribution points for our grocery pre-pack and online ordering so we can meet clients where they live. At the same time, our operations team continues to develop new partnerships and is working with other area agencies to source food. With your help, we continue to receive food donations that keep our shelves stocked.
With a bit of creativity, the support of our food partners, community collaborations, and your generosity, we will weather the storm.