FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- With grocery store prices already historically high, time is almost up for people who have been using increased benefits brought on by the pandemic.
"It's not easy to afford what you need from the grocery store because the prices now. It's really high," said FCC student Zein Zraid.
Soon, it might be more challenging. February will be the last month that 5 million Californians will receive SNAP-or CalFresh Emergency Allotment benefits -- estimated to be equivalent to $500 million. According to the California Association of Food Banks, a household could lose as much as $250 dollars in aid.
FCC student Alma Munoz is dreading the day her benefits stop.
"That's the only thing that helps us with groceries," she said. "It's the only thing that keeps us going. And without it, it's probably going to be like, "this bill or get food."'
She and her sister are turning to resources like the Ram Pantry at Fresno City College. As students, they have access to 8 items per day Tuesday through Thursday.
"Especially if you are on a fixed income," said Munoz.
The pantry serves up to 900 students per day. That's 200 more than before the pandemic. Some days, the line wraps around the building.
"I think we have less students attending classes in person, on campus, but we have a growth in students visiting the pantry," said FCC Food Pantry Coordinator Paul Torres. "We hear stories of them living out of their vehicles and this is the food they can depend on."
Thursday morning, people loaded up on groceries at Catholic Charities downtown during one of their bi-monthly fresh grocery distributions.
A family of 4 would need to earn less than about $4,600 per month to qualify. But the organization says they will find a way to work with anyone who needs help. As food prices have gone up, so has the number of people they serve.
"It is not the same families that we are serving every day, it's families that are coming to us for the first time," said Ashlee Wolf with Catholic Charities. "Finding themselves in need for the first time."
The pantry at Catholic Charities is open daily. Families can visit and get a box of free groceries eight times per year.
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