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One in eight Ohioans face food insecurity. End of emergency SNAP benefits could make things worse

produce section at a grocery store
Zety Akhzar
The cost of groceries is rising, and SNAP benefits were cut in March.

About one in eight Ohioans aren’t always able to afford putting food on the table. That’s according to a new study on food insecurity from the Center for Community Solutions. The center is concerned the problem is going to get worse.

“That somebody is struggling with food insecurity, we can’t tell by looking at someone. We can’t tell by knowing what their job is or what their situation is,” said Emily Muttillo, director of research for the Center for Community Solutions. "This is sort of a hidden struggle for many people and so it’s something that often goes overlooked.”

The research, which is a compilation of surveys from the last three years, follows the end of additional emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. There are about 673,000 people in Ohio who get SNAP benefits according to the center. All saw their benefits cuts as a result.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued waivers in 2020 allowing states, including Ohio, to temporarily increase SNAP benefits during the pandemic. President Biden signed an appropriations bill at the end of 2022 which terminated the emergency assistance as of March.

With the cuts to SNAP benefits and the cost of food and groceries rising, Muttillo said there is concern food insecurity will rise and that one in eight number – about 12% of people in Ohio – will become more drastic.

2023 Ohio food insecurity map by Ohio House district
The Center of Community Solutions

“There are more people on SNAP than there were before the pandemic. The cost of food is rising, so food is more expensive. People have less resources to put towards foods,” Muttillo said.

Muttillo said the struggle to afford food will have a ripple effect on someone’s life.

“It also became the thing they are most focused on,” Muttillo said. “It’s harder to do things like education and seek work and do the other things that help promote well-being when the only thing you are focused on is your next meal.”

The center’s data also shows that both rural and metropolitan areas are where SNAP benefits are most utilized.

food insecurity in Ohio by Ohio Senate district
The Center for Community Solutions

“The higher concentrations are in communities where there’s lower median income,” Muttillo said.

Through the surveys, the center also found that 14.6% of older adult respondents in Cuyahoga County said they needed to spend less of medication and food to afford housing costs. In Lorain County, 24.5 % of respondents said someone in their household needed the services of a food pantry.

Muttillo said there’s a lot that can be done to reduce food insecurity, including making more people eligible for SNAP benefits.

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.