EBT Offerings Shrinking But Retailers Like Walmart or Dollar General Are Stepping Up For Food Assistance

Emergency benefits provided for nutritional care of the population during the Covid pandemic are expected to shrink this year. Many state officials have shared that they may no longer offer SNAP benefits to consumers and many Canadian providers aim to pull back social assistance programs as well. 

This comes as a bitter shock as for nearly three years now, households had depended on the additional dollars they received to afford better quality food. Perhaps that is why mainstream stores like Dollar General had started offering EBT to their buyers. 

As the additional funds provided for aid will expire soon, many families will be left with less money amidst an economic situation where food prices have already peaked. 

The importance of these benefits can be judged from the statement that Chris Bernard, President and CEO of Hunger Free program in the US gave himself, “We know that these increase benefits have been important to so many Oklahomans over the last three years and that this change will impact some SNAP users harder than others, particularly our senior and disabled neighbors. Undoubtedly, this will create an increased need for Oklahomans to support their local food pantries and food banks.”

While the situation is bound to raise alarms and warnings for vulnerable communities, retailers like Walmart, Publix, and Dollar General have stepped in to fill the void. Although these companies provided food assistance to Canadian buyers in one form or another, they now aim to build stronger alternatives. 

Luckily, these retail giants were quick to adapt to the changing landscape and they also played a crucial role in ensuring that the public has access to affordable and nutritious food items at all times.

How Do Retailers Plan To Help? 

The decline in SNAP dollars will put pressure on discretionary sales for retailers like Walmart, Kroger, or Dollar General. The change adds up to an already long list of worries that they have to face in the year ahead. Since discretionary sales are crucial for such businesses to drive higher profits. 

Major Canadian retailers and companies have already issued warnings to buyers that they may need to spend more carefully on luxury items like clothing or electronics so they can afford necessities such as housing and food. As a retail analyst, Karen Short shares, “You still have to feed the same number of mouths, but you have to make choices. So what you are doing is you are having to cut back on discretionary.”

Retailers have pointed out heightened responses to discounts and promotions. As a result, they plan to work on seasonal deals, specific discounts like those offered to seniors, students, or teachers, and promotions on holidays.

The companies plan to increase their offerings to underserved areas for supporting food assistance. They have also collaborated with food banks and communities to host mobile food pantries and provide fresh products, ensuring that even in areas with limited grocery options, individuals and families can access healthy food choices. Additional methods in which retailers can help those in need of food assistance are listed below:

  • Retails can raise awareness about the usability of food banks that often rely on advocates to share information and attract potential individuals. 
  • Retail dieticians can also help encourage people to look out for charitable government food assistance programs. It will be easier to eat healthy when receiving help from these resources. 
  • Retailers can partner with educational institutes to offer nutrition/cooking classes to kids in school as a way to teach them healthy eating habits and choices. 
  • They can become approved pickup agents for food pantries and meal programs. Retail stores are more likely to grow with such collaborations because they already can manage frozen, refrigerated, and dry food content safely.  

There’s More! 

Ultimately, there are other nutrition assistance programs that consumers can look into now. 

For example, children up to the age of 5 and pregnant ladies can qualify for WIC. Similarly, low-income people who are above 60 years of age can qualify for senior discounts that certain retailers offer. Some also provide coupons for fresh produce at specific farmer markets. 

In addition to the help that retailers are willing to offer, schools are also serving free meals to all students. Hopefully, such benefits will not be pulled back in the near future. 

Non-profit organizations are willing to lend a helping hand too. Some of the most prominent programs are listed as: 

  • Double Up Food Bucks which increases or doubles the value of EBT payments when purchasing fresh vegetables or fruits. The program has been launched in partnership with more than 1300 grocery and farmer markets across 30 states. 
  • Feeding America is a nationwide food network of food banks and pantries that comes integrated with an online tool to help users find food banks closest to them. 
  • Some organizations are running hunger hotlines too that connect callers with emergency food providers in their community. 

Future Possibilities 

The efforts that retailers are willing to put in are just the tip of the iceberg. Demand for food assistance will increase in the future since benefits like SNAP or Electronic Benefits Transfer are being discontinued but retailers wish to continue support for consumers. Hopefully, retailers’ collaboration with government agencies and non-profit organizations will prove to be fruitful. By leveraging their resources altogether, stakeholders can collectively enhance the reach and impact of food assistance programs. 

As much as we hate to say it, It’s true! 

EBT offerings are shrinking but thankfully, many retailers have stepped up as key players in the fight against food insecurity. They are expanding their deals and discount pool, introducing seasonal promotions, and embracing the use of food banks and pantries to help build a sense of community amongst those actively addressing challenges as a vulnerable population. 

Their efforts will ensure access to affordable and nutritious food and also pave the way for a more inclusive food assistance landscape. Together, these different elements can work towards a future where no one goes to sleep hungry regardless of their economic standing. 

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