Bracing for a hunger crisis as cuts to food benefits take effect

Wisconsin FoodShare recipients have benefited from additional payments via federal funding intended to support people during the pandemic.

As of this month, the extra pandemic benefits will be discontinued.

IMPACT 211 has experienced an increase in requests for food-related assistance over the past six to nine months due to higher costs for groceries, utilities, rent and many household goods. The elimination of the pandemic benefit will likely result in greater reliance on the emergency food pantry system, meals sites and other basic needs resources.

"It's been getting busier each month. I think we served roughly 30% more families in 2022 compared to 2021 and that was with emergency allotments still in place," said Sophia Torrijos, executive director of Friedens Food Pantries. "So March truly has the potential to be a disaster for organizations and families."

Timeline of pandemic-fueled financial insecurity, government response and local impact

March 2020 - Onset of COVID-19

  • Interruption of income due to businesses furloughing employees
  • Children at home due to schools shifting to remote learning / no school meals
  • Rush on commodities in grocery stores drives up prices
  • IMPACT 211 requests for food resources surged to unprecedented levels

April 2020

  • Individuals and families began receiving maximum FoodShare benefit
  • Reduced number of food pantries available (volunteer shortage) but eligibility requirements were eased/eliminated which improved access to food
  • IMPACT 211 requests for food resources dropped


  • COVID-19 exacerbated the affordable housing crisis that pre-dated the pandemic. Many people faced significant rental debt and feared eviction.
  • Wisconsin Emergency Rent Assistance Program was enacted to help eligible residents pay rent


  • Higher costs for gasoline and utilities. Food prices jumped.
  • Emergency Rent Assistance Program ended
  • Eviction moratorium ended
  • IMPACT 211 requests for food assistance started to increase


  • Household costs (rent, utilities, food, etc.) continue to rise
  • Pandemic food assistance benefit ends in March
  • IMPACT 211 requests for food and financial assistance remain high

911 is No Joke

The City of Milwaukee has launched its “911 Is No Joke” campaign to raise awareness about the importance of calling 911 in emergency situations. IMPACT 211 is promoted as an essential component of helping residents access critical information and non-emergency assistance for social service needs.

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