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FoodShare Use Rises During Pandemic, Report Finds

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Piman Khrutmuang
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A recent report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum found that participation in FoodShare (sometimes referred to as food stamps) has substantially increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic plunged the world’s economy into the biggest recession since the Great Depression. Many Americans continue to struggle as the flare-ups threaten the little progress we’ve been able to make since lockdowns began in April.

Wisconsin is currently one of the nation’s hotspots of infections. And as many people continue to struggle, Wisconsinites are increasingly turning to FoodShare benefits to keep themselves fed. A recent report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum found that participation in FoodShare (sometimes referred to as food stamps) has substantially increased during the pandemic.

"Comparing August of this year to August of last year ... enrollment is up about 115,000 recipients," says Mark Sommerhauser, a researcher with the Wisconsin Policy Forum. 

Generally, Wisconsin has strict work requirements that bar many jobless and childless adults from getting more than three months of FoodShare benefits during a three-year period. During the pandemic, the federal government has halted work requirements for SNAP benefits, allowing more people to utilize the program. Although that provision was set to expire in September, Sommerhauser says new provisions will continue to expand access to these benefits through next year. 

"We saw this initial massive spike in unemployment around April, around May," says Sommerhauser. "We have been able to recover some of those jobs, but you know, there's been a significant number that we have not recovered. And of course, the longer that some of those folks are out of work, the more likely it becomes that they would end up in a longer-term unemployment situation." 

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Joy Powers joined WUWM January 2016 as a producer for Lake Effect. Before then, she was a director and producer for Afternoon Shift, on WBEZ-fm Chicago Public Radio.