Record numbers of Iowa families relied on food pantries during the pandemic, but with increased federal benefits through the SNAP program, some pantries are finally seeing a bit less traffic.

Luke Elzinga, spokesman for the Des Moines Area Religious Council, says many people are getting a lot more money for food through pandemic emergency increases to SNAP. “When people have the money to spend at the grocery store on their food, they’re less likely to come to a food pantry,” Elzinga says.

Those emergency benefits are temporary, but starting in October, SNAP will see a historic, permanent increase to the amount of money a person gets each month. Even with the higher base-level benefits, Elzinga expects people will go back to the pantries once the pandemic allotment runs out.

“They’re going to be needing to fill that gap somehow,” he says, “and a lot of them were previously using food pantries to do so and so we expect that they will return.” Once the emergency assistance stops, he says people will get different amounts of money, sometimes less, despite the permanent increase to SNAP.

(By Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio)