As a number of pandemic-era supplemental food programs and benefits were discontinued in the beginning of 2023, food banks statewide have faced struggles meeting demand, which doubled over the summer as the state Legislature tries to address the ongoing issue.

Data from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission shows monthly applications for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits peaked at over 200,000 in May, July and August following the elimination of federal emergency food assistance programs.

“There's even some people who weren't on SNAP benefits and weren’t benefiting from those extra allotments who we're now seeing in our lines because they're simply not able to make ends meet,” said Celia Cole, executive director of Feeding Texas, a statewide nonprofit that works to address hunger and food scarcity among Texans.

What's being done

Several state House bills went into effect in September, providing additional thresholds for individuals and food banks in need of assistance:

What to expect

Cole said the possibility of a federal government shutdown and continued inflation could cause more long-term strain on the already-struggling system. However, some efforts, such as the state’s Double Up Food Bucks program for fresh foods—which allows grocery stores to match up to $30 a day of benefits on fruits and vegetables—aim to get ahead of the issue.

“We are doing what we can to help families sort of fill the gaps and stretch their food budget by providing access to emergency food—obviously working to get as much healthy food out into the communities we serve as we can,” Cole said.

Cole said food is one of the first items families tend to cut from budgets during times of financial instability. However, the legislative measures taken this year could potentially lighten some of the burden. The main issue which remains is managing the backlog of SNAP applications, which take several weeks to process, according to the HHS.