Families using SNAP benefits at risk during COVID-19 pandemic

MOUNT HOLLY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Erica Conover volunteers at the Beacon of Hope Food Pantry in Mount Holly, New Jersey, and before she knows firsthand the fear of being able to put food on the table.

"I have little children so it would break my heart if I couldn't feed them," said Conover.

The mom of two little ones relies on SNAP benefits and the need for government assistance like that is increasing. But a big concern during this coronavirus pandemic: SNAP benefits don't work for online delivery services.

They can only be used by physically going to a grocery store, where social distancing is quite a bit more difficult.

"Now you having to go out into this world where who knows who's carrying what especially because the symptoms are just all over the place," said Conover.

Another problem for many families is getting to and from a grocery store. "I don't have transportation so not only am I opening up myself, but now I have to ask somebody else, 'hey can you give me a ride to the grocery store?' and now putting somebody else at risk," Conover said.

The long lines at food banks show the demand is getting greater day by day. According to the U.S. Census in Pennsylvania, 1.7 percent of households get assistance.

In Philadelphia, the number of families getting SNAP benefits is 60 percent higher, about 450,000 households. In South Jersey, 1.8 percent of households rely on SNAP benefits.

Many families in this position say instead of coming to the store, it would be safer and easier to place an order online. Action News spoke with The Coalition Against Hunger who states - this has been talked about as an option but it's not happening at this point. The cost is another issue.

"SNAP couldn't pay for the delivery fee, it could just pay for the groceries," said Kathy Fisher with the Coalition Against Hunger. "When you think of people paying for SEPTA or getting to the store other ways, it should be up to that person they could pay the delivery fee out of pocket."

In the meantime, Conover says she and mothers like herself are doing their best to protect themselves while also making sure their little ones don't go hungry.
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