Portage County families brace for the end of SNAP’s emergency food supplement

Photo of three men helping load grocerties in a parking lot
Managing supervisor Pat Blair (left) helps volunteers Jerry Taylor (center) and Joel Barrett load boxes of food for Kathy Englehart at the Brimfield Community Cupboard. Michael Indriolo/The Portager

See the bottom of this article for a list of food support providers.

Families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Emergency Allotments will soon see those benefits disappear.

For 14,051 Portage County residents, that means cutting at least $95 from their monthly food budget, for both individuals and families. They’ll take the hit in March, when the county’s top social services official said she expects agency phones to start ringing off the hook.

Portage County Job and Family Services Director Kellijo Jeffries clarified that SNAP benefits themselves will remain constant. Only the Covid-era emergency assistance supplement is being cut. 

But SNAP eligibility could change for some people who receive both SNAP and Social Security benefits. Social Security benefits increased 8.7% on Jan. 1 to reflect the cost of living increase. Because SNAP benefits are calculated partly on household income, some recipients may be unable to qualify for SNAP benefits at all.

It’s a hard blow, especially when Moody’s Analytics reports that inflation forced the average American to spend $371 more in December compared to a year ago.

SNAP is a federal program, so state lawmakers had no control when the feds passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, which ended the $95 emergency assistance program meant to provide additional support during the pandemic.

If a household has been receiving the minimum $95 emergency supplement, losing that supplement means about $21 less a week per person to spend on food, said JFS Division Administrator Rebecca Abbott.

“When you think of what that can buy, that’s huge,” Jeffries said. “Eggs, butter. It’s almost $5 a pound for butter, $5 for eggs in some places. It’s profound how much the food costs are.”

From her seat on Portage County’s Emergency Food & Shelter Board, Jeffries said members are already seeing an increase in requests for food support. Everyone, she said, “absolutely agrees” the situation is only going to worsen.

Some agencies and organizations have applied to the Portage County commissioners for American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds and are awaiting a decision as to whether they will be able to continue and expand their services, she said.

“Inflation and the cost of food is just exacerbating the issue,” Jeffries said. “It’s one thing to lose the supplement, but then also for all of us to be realizing the astronomical food costs, it’s just really going to hit individuals and families really hard.”

Jeffries expects community food banks, already struggling to meet people’s needs, to be stretched to the breaking point and beyond. She advises people who need food to access 211, United Way’s information referral hotline.

She and her board counterparts will monitor county needs on a monthly basis, and do their best to provide additional support.

Jeffies agreed that food pantries may not always provide the most nutritious foods and that people who have diabetes, celiac issues or other health concerns are even more challenged.

“We’re trying to do better as a community in that space, but the cost of eggs, for example. That becomes a challenge anymore,” she said, adding that some food providers can no longer afford to offer eggs.

Though prices at area farmers’ markets are typically higher than those at grocery stores, SNAP recipients shopping at Kent’s Haymaker Farmers’ Market may find at least one unexpected benefit.

For each $25 spent at the market, SNAP/EBT/One Direction recipients can receive a $25 Produce Perks match, good for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables, market manager Andrew Rome said. The Perks renew every week.

WIC Perks vouchers valued at $10 are also available for customers receiving WIC benefits, he added. To obtain the perks, simply visit the market information booth prior to shopping.

“If someone using SNAP benefits comes to spend $25 and then gets the matching $25, they can buy a lot more for that $50 total than they could at the grocery store,” Rome said.

Even in the winter, Haymakers Farmers’ Market customers may find fresh apples, meats, greens, root vegetables, herbs, eggs, and even mushrooms, he said.

The market’s winter quarters from December through March are at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent in Hobbs Hall at 217 N. Mantua St. In April the market will move outdoors to its usual location at Franklin Avenue near West College Avenue.

Haymaker Farmers’ Market is the only winter market in Portage County. It is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.


Please call ahead as each site has different hours and criteria for qualifications, and please let us know of any additions or deletions to this list:

  • Randolph-Suffield-Atwater Food Shelf 2643 Waterloo Road, Randolph (St. Joseph Church) 628-1801
  • Catholic Charities Serving Portage County 206 W. Main St., Ravenna 330-297-7745. Pantry services.
  • Church of Christ Ravenna, 3897 Summit Road, Ravenna 330-296-3637. Emergency food, including holiday baskets.
  • Family & Community Services-Center of Hope Pantry 1081 West Main St., Ravenna 330-297-5454
  • Salvation Army Center for Warship & Service 268 W. Main St., Ravenna 330-296-7371
  • Winfield Church of God In Christ 6595 Winfield St., Ravenna 330-296-5880
  • Streetsboro Christian Cupboard of Portage County 9307 S.R. 43 (McMichaels Professional Building) Streetsboro 330-626-3244
  • Streetsboro Church of Christ 1386 Russell Drive 330-626-4282. Assistance includes bags of groceries, food boxes, and deliveries to seniors.
  • Streetsboro United Methodist Church 8940 S. R. 43 330-626-2239
  • Lifepoint Church of Atwater 6498 Waterloo Rd., Atwater 330-947-2259
  • F&CS-Kent Social Services 1066 S. Water St., Kent 330-673-6963. Source for SNAP & WIC applications, USDA supplies and other grants. Also serves hot meals.
  • Riverwood Community Chapel 1407 Fairchild Ave., Kent 330-678-7000
  • Trinity Lutheran Church 600 S. Water St., Kent 330-673-5445
  • Palmyra United Methodist Church 3968 S.R. 225, Diamond 330-654-2396
  • Brimfield Community Cupboard 1235 Tallmadge Road, Brimfield Twp., 330-673-7597
  • Renaissance Family Center 9005 Wil-Verne Dr., Windham 330-326-6133. RFC is part of the regional Salvation Army program. Applicants may receive Meals on Wheels and food boxes.
  • Blackhorse Baptist Church 6360 Bridge St., Ravenna 330-297-7860
  • Job & Family Services 449 S. Meridian St., Ravenna 330-297-3750. Provides low income, elderly individuals with a monthly box of food.
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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.