More Americans are going hungry than last summer because of soaring food prices, but at least 16 states are refusing extra federal money meant to help the hungry, who are disproportionately rural.

This July, food costs rose an average of 10.9 percent from the previous July, the biggest single-year jump since 1979, Molly Smith reports for Bloomberg. Eggs and grain-based foods saw some of the biggest increases, owing to the recent avian-flu epidemic that took out millions of laying hens and the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has stalled grain shipments. Overall food prices rose 1.14% from June to July, the highest month-over-month increase since April 2020.

In July, more than 15 million Americans sometimes went hungry because they couldn't afford food, and nearly 6 million often did, according to the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey. In July 2021, nearly 12 million sometimes went hungry because they couldn't afford food and 3.6 million often did.

"Those numbers would have been higher if millions of families hadn’t received extra food aid through a pandemic-related expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps," Kristian Hernández reports for Stateline. "At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic . . . Congress temporarily increased SNAP benefits by raising all benefits by 15% and boosting every household to the maximum benefit allowed for its household size. In April 2021, the Biden administration bumped up the extra aid to a minimum of $95 for all households."

The 15% increase expired last September, but the maximum-benefit boost will continue as long as a state is still in a state of emergency or disaster due to the pandemic. "As of mid-July, 30 states had ended or allowed their health emergency orders to expire, but 18 of those states continued to qualify for emergency SNAP benefits because they are citing disaster declarations. According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency website, every state has at least one active disaster declaration due to Covid-19," Hernández reports. "But at least 16 states now have opted out of providing the emergency allotments, with Republican leaders in some of those states arguing that the extra food aid and other pandemic-related help are contributing to worker shortages across the country."

Three-quarters of households getting SNAP benefits had at least one adult working in 2018, the most recent data available, "and some researchers have long argued that while Medicaid and other welfare programs might include disincentives to work, SNAP does not," Hernández reports, adding that even with the recent increases in benefits, recipients in over 20% of counties still couldn't afford three modest meals a day last fall—and that was before inflation sent food prices skyrocketing.

Read the full article about rural food shortages by [u'Heather Chapman'] at