MILWAUKEE — For months, we've been reporting on climbing food prices. If you get government assistance, the amount of food benefits you received didn't take into account the current cost of groceries. That's changing now.
The United States Department of Agriculture re-evaluated what's called the Thrifty Food Plan.
It's used to calculate the cost of a healthy diet. The result? Starting in the middle of this month, food benefit funds for families in need will reflect current food prices.
If you're curious how much extra money that will amount to on QUEST cards recipients use at the grocery store, FoodShare experts say it has to be calculated on a case by case basis.
"It's going to depend upon everyone's individual situation," said Jim Jones, the Director of the Division of Medicaid Services with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
"We've sent them [recipients] a letter in September telling them the new way we're doing FoodShare calculation. We're also sending them a letter this week telling them why their benefits changed, and what the new amounts will be," Jones said.
Jones explains that while pandemic emergency food funding is ongoing, one federal program that bumped up the benefits during COVID-19 is ending, so this change helps offset that loss.
"One thing that the Biden administration did when they came into office is actually increase the amount of the allotment by 15%, and that's going away in October," Jones explained.
Also, Jones points out each year, cost of living adjustments are made to FoodShare benefits. Those also begin on Oct. 1.
While everyone's FoodShare benefit amount may look different, DHS says the maximum an eligible family of four can get per month right now in Wisconsin is $835.
Click here to learn more about the FoodShare changes that started this month.
Sherrie Tussler, Executive Director of one of Wisconsin's largest food banks, the Hunger Task Force, says her non-profit is seeing a drop in demand for emergency food at area pantries.
"Our job is to put ourselves out of business and the great news is that because of the increase in FoodShare benefits, what they call SNAP nationwide, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the need for emergency food has decreased across the nation," said Tussler.
"Our pantry numbers are actually decreased by more than 20%," she added.
Along with the changes to FoodShare, this month comes more paperwork. If you're new to FoodShare, you may not be familiar with doing interviews or filling out six-month reports. Rules like these that were on a break during the pandemic are now re-instated.
If you have any questions about your FoodShare program or any of the new changes, you can reach out to the Hunger Task Force at (414) 777-0483 or visit their website.
"What they need to know is they have rights. They have the right to apply. They have the right to understand what's going on with their case. They have the right to have their FoodShare application reviewed quickly. And, they have the right to complain if they feel they didn't get what they were entitled to," Tussler said.