Montanans need healthy, fresh food to work hard, care for their loved ones, and enjoy their communities. Kids, seniors, working parents, individuals with disabilities, and those living in rural and tribal communities — all deserve healthy food. Even before the pandemic, many Montanans did not have adequate food access, with more than 110,000 Montanans, including nearly one in six children, living in homes that struggle with hunger. We know this past year made accessing that basic life necessity even more difficult for many. Visits to Montana food pantries increased by 36% in 2020, compared to 2019.

Fortunately, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has provided Montana with critical funding for COVID-relief. There are several ways these funds will help ease food insecurity for families around the state.

Much of the food assistance money will automatically go toward a temporary 15% boost to SNAP benefits. This increase means about $28 more per person each month, helping families afford rising food prices and stretch their budgets to afford housing and other necessities. SNAP is our most important and impactful anti-hunger program, providing 9 meals for every 1 meal provided through the nationwide network of food banks. Funds will also help our state establish online SNAP purchasing, modernizing SNAP and improving food access. But there is so much more the Legislature can do.

The state should use every federal dollar to best support stability for Montanans. Legislators should support Double SNAP Dollars — a program that helps SNAP customers afford fresh, local foods while directly benefiting Montana’s growers and producers. And more support is needed for K-12 students to access affordable meals at school, ensuring that all kids have the nutrition needed to learn and thrive.

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