RELEASE: Recent Changes to Missouri SNAP Program Reveal a Broken System

Grocery store produce section featuring stacks of fresh items like tomatoes, apples

Friday, November 17, 2023

Columbia, MO – Over the past two years, Missouri SNAP benefits have undergone major changes. As food prices continue to surge, Missouri families suffer, and often community food banks feel the heat of increased demand.

In September 2021, Missouri ended pandemic-era SNAP benefits, leaving families with $95 less a month to feed their families Then, this summer, Missouri declined to participate in a federally funded program to provide extra benefits for school children during the summer months. On July 1, 2023, Missouri reinstated a 3-month time limit on SNAP benefits for unemployed adults, which expired on October 1.

In 2022, 657,900 Missourians received SNAP benefits, and up to 28,000 Missourians were eligible to lose benefits once the 3-month time limit was reintroduced in July. Food prices have continued to increase through 2023. The simultaneous increase in food prices and decrease in SNAP benefits has led some to cut down to 1 or 2 meals a day.

Food pantries feel the pressure to make up the difference. Kera Mashek, United Way of Greater Kansas City’s Director of Communications, reported a 35% increase in the past year to their 211 call line:

Food assistance is continually in our top five most requested services from individuals calling in or searching our website for help. [The United Way of Greater Kansas City] issued emergency food pantry grants to help with record inflation earlier this year to help keep pantry shelves stocked amid record demand.

Missouri electeds should fight to increase access to healthy, nutritious food and get rid of failing systems that keep needy families from staying fed. A study by the Urban Institute found that SNAP time limits don’t increase employment – they just decrease the amount of aid going to people who need it.

And this year, Missouri refused to participate in summer benefits program because of failing infrastructure. Missouri failed to distribute 2022 aid in time because of a faulty system, so the state had time to take action. Many states faced the same issue – so they rebuilt their system. Missouri didn’t. Families took the fall. Further, Missouri’s failing SNAP call center has been the subject of a federal lawsuit due to extreme wait times, another issue that could be resolved if lawmakers invested in taking care of vulnerable Missourians.