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Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry provides critical assistance despite benefit changes

For the food-insecure in the 15217 zip code, the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry (SHCFP) provides crucial assistance, ensuring food is available to those who are struggling to adequately feed themselves and their families.

Recently, SHCFP was highlighted in Uncensored Magazine, a publication of the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness. Becky Abrams, director of SHCFP, was interviewed for an article on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit changes and cuts in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

Many of our Food Pantry clients receive SNAP benefits, through which individuals and families that qualify receive a monthly cash allotment (issued via an electronic debit card accepted by food stores) to help pay for food. Click here to view the article.

As more people in our communities are struggling with economic uncertainty and food insecurity, many see these benefits as key to keeping themselves and their families afloat, allowing them to build up their savings and assets with the hope that they will eventually get out of poverty and become self-sufficient.

Asset tests could potentially require families and seniors to drain their savings and resources to provide for their families, and by lowering the amount of savings a family or senior adult may have in order to be eligible for SNAP, one financial or medical crisis carries the potential risk of completely draining their savings or causing them to lose their home.

In May, SNAP recipients across the state saw their benefits potentially in jeopardy as the asset test was reintroduced in Pennsylvania. Through the newly-reintroduced asset test, in order to be eligible for and receive SNAP benefits, those under age 59 cannot have more than $5,500 in assets, and those who are age 60 and older, or disabled, cannot have more than $9,000.

SNAP benefits have the ability to provide significant relief and assistance to not only those individuals and families who receive them, but also to food-providing organizations like SHCFP. For many households, losing SNAP benefits means they must rely on food pantries as their only hope of putting adequate food on the table. This has the potential to significantly drain resources and put extra strain on the SHCFP (and other pantries and food-providing organizations state-wide) as more people turn to organizations like SHCFP to feed themselves and their families.

While it’s still too soon to tell what the impact of the asset tests will be, we’re committed to serving the needs of our community by providing food assistance to those in need. SHCFP’s services are crucial to ensuring our community’s families and seniors are able to feed and provide for themselves, and we want to ensure our clients are able to achieve and maintain maximum self-sufficiency. You can help the Pantry provide assistance to those in need by donating food and funds, or by volunteering at the Pantry.

To learn more about the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry, visit our website. To volunteer or to find more ways you can help support the Pantry, please contact SHCFP Coordinator Tanya Bielski-Braham at tbielski-braham@sqfoodpantry.org or 412.421.2708.