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Inflation, Federal Aid Cuts Fuel Increased Demand at Food Pantries


On the third Tuesday of each month, cars often begin lining up at least half an hour before distribution starts at the St. John’s United Church of Christ Food Pantry in Owosso.

Director Steve Shelton, 73, and other volunteers head to the cars with boxes of staples such as fresh produce, meat, pasta, milk and bread, as well as the occasional bag of pet food. Shelton estimates the pantry saw demand rise by 25 percent from February to March.

Food pantries around the state have seen increasing demand amid inflation and recent cuts to federal food assistance benefits.

AARP is working with the Food Bank Council of Michigan to help bridge the resulting gaps through legislation and community outreach.

More than 1.4 million Michigan residents received benefits through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in January 2023—up 21 percent from January 2020, before the pandemic, data shows.

SNAP recipients in the state temporarily received at least $95 a month in additional benefits during the pandemic. But that extra help ended in February.

“You’re cutting SNAP benefits from the most vulnerable, our families, the small children, the seniors who are the caregivers of the small children,” says the Rev. Roslyn Murray Bouier, executive director of the Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry in Detroit, which has also seen increased demand.

To help provide relief, AARP Michigan is working with Area Agencies on Aging, community food kitchens and other groups to inform people about resources.

“Food insecurity is not just about one program,” says AARP State Director Paula Cunningham. “For sustainable change to happen, the policies perpetuating food insecurity must change.”

AARP is also advocating for a bill aimed at making it easier for families to qualify for SNAP. It would remove the limit on assets, such as checking and savings -accounts, that people can have and still qualify for the program. The current limit is $15,000.

AARP also urges state lawmakers to increase funding for Meals on Wheels by $1 million in the annual state budget.

For food assistance, call the Food Bank Council of Michigan’s helpline at 888-544-8773. Learn more about AARP’s work on food insecurity at


AARP Michigan also works to address systemic racial, ethnic and LGBTQ disparities in access to health care options.

In April, it cohosted a free Color of Health Care multicultural forum in five languages.

Shenlin Chen, president emeritus of the Association of Chinese Americans, which cohosted the forum, says her organization has more than 6,500 contacts each year with older Chinese Americans for health screenings and education in Detroit and Madison Heights.

“A lot of seniors have a habit of bringing all the medicine from their hometown in China,” Chen says. “They need to know what medicines are available here.”

AARP is urging the state to implement recommendations issued in February by the Corona-virus Task Force on Racial Disparities, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) established in 2020. The recommendations include investment in mobile health units to increase access to care.

AARP Michigan recently released a multicultural health care guide with resources in Detroit, Lansing, Jackson and Grand Rapids, as well as state and national information. The guide is available online at Or request a copy by emailing or calling 866-227-7448.

Mary Van Beusekom is a writer living in Excelsior, Minnesota.

More on Food Insecurity

More Than 9 Million Older Adults Face Food Insecurity

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