Today, 1.8 million Pennsylvanians use SNAP. That’s roughly 14 percent of the state’s population. Of this group, 59 percent of recipients are families with children, while 46 percent are households with older adults or disabled individuals. In addition, 37 percent of recipients are classified as part of the working poor.
Clearly, SNAP is extremely important to recipients, but it is also important to communities. Every dollar in SNAP spending generates $1.50 in overall economic activity, which benefits food retailers, food processors and suppliers, farmers, and the business community.
Weis Markets has been engaged in SNAP advocacy for a long time, so we sat down with Dennis Curtin to find out a little more about some of the longstanding challenges for the industry, evergreen priorities when it comes to reform, and top-of-mind issues for this year specifically.
“Our engagement with SNAP is about explaining how the program impacts our customers and communities,” said Dennis Curtin of Weis Markets. “We’ve all heard the myths about individuals exploiting SNAP and engaging in fraudulent activities. In our business, we see SNAP recipients buying groceries to feed their families. Our top SNAP item is a family-size package of 80 percent ground beef. Essentials like eggs, bananas and a gallon of whole milk are in the top five.”
Overall, Weis Markets said that they have seen significant improvements to SNAP in recent years. For example, the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan formula has been updated to reflect how people buy and prepare food today compared to 40 years ago, and children and their families who are eligible for free meals at school will receive $120 in SNAP funding over the summer recess. It is their hope to see sustained improvements in these key areas.
On the other hand, Curtin discussed the end of the COVID emergency allotment and how that has uniquely created challenges for many recipients. Single-person households, who used to receive $95 per person per month, now receive $23. Many of these individuals are seniors, so Weis Markets hopes the Commonwealth will address this issue and increase the allotment for this group.
Weis Markets views SNAP advocacy as an ongoing process. While it’s true that SNAP is authorized every five years as part of the Farm Bill, it’s reviewed and scrutinized regularly. In addition, the USDA oversees administrative details of the program on an ongoing basis. Staying informed of these changes helps Weis Markets meet the needs of its SNAP customers.
Once you have an understanding of how SNAP affects your stores and communities, explain its impact to your elected representatives whenever you have the chance. Over the years, Weis Markets has developed a relationship with Congressman Glenn Thompson, who is Chairman of the Ag Committee and a key player in the Farm Bill. His district is home to many of their Weis Markets stores; he has been fair, helpful, and receptive to our advocacy about SNAP.
As a food merchant, you need to know how SNAP impacts your stores and communities. You should understand that this program impacts more than just its beneficiaries—it benefits the whole community. To get more involved with advocacy efforts email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erica Koup Logsdon, Director of Communications and Media Relations