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Food Banks Could See Elevated Needs As Expanded Unemployment, Food Stamp Benefits End

Courtesy of 2nd Harvest

As aid programs expire, service providers say they expect to see more people in need, even if they do manage to find jobs.Second Harvest, a Spokane food bank that supplies other food banks across the region, has been operating at an expanded capacity since the start of the pandemic. Eric Williams, the non-profit's community partnerships director, says the food bank saw a lull in need as aid went out, but says the end of expanded unemployment benefits and eviction protections could change that.

“There is a correlation between unemployment and the need that we see. It trails a little bit, but there is definitely a correlation there," he said.

David Stone, the programs and services director for Spokane Valley Partners, a food bank, said his agency is anticipating both return visits and people who have never gone to the food bank before.

“While we didn’t see an avalanche of new clients over the last 12 months, we are expecting to see a big avalanche of new clients over the next 12 months," he said.

He says now that benefits have been cut, many of the unemployed may find work, but not necessarily a living wage job.

“I think as we recover, we’ll be seeing families needing to take some employment that maybe still doesn’t quite meet their needs," Stone said.

He said even before the pandemic, Spokane Valley Partners served minimum wage workers who were struggling to manage Spokane County’s cost of living.

Both non-profits say they’ll need donations to meet those needs.

Stone says Spokane Valley Partners is changing its format to make it easier to drop in and get food or clothes, but will need more volunteers to staff those expanded hours.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.