More Arizonans collect SNAP benefits as payouts decrease due to demand surge

This summer, thousands of Arizonans reached out to the state for help with their groceries. They're using the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, also called SNAP benefits and the recent surge comes as funding has dropped significantly.

Open up the cabinets and they look full. 

"Oh, canned goods."

Mesa resident Kay Fritsche is on a fixed income. Medical bills pile up for her, but the money coming in doesn't change, so she gets help from SNAP benefits.

"I have meals in the freezer, so that' full," she said.

SNAP is more commonly known as food stamps.

"When I first got it, it was like $240 a month. After that, $200 went out. I get $20/month milk, bread, butter, peanut butter."

MORE: Nationwide SNAP, EBT outage left millions unable to make payments at stores, some systems restored

Food stamp payouts have dropped 35% on average this summer in Arizona. Unlike 22 other states, Arizona did not accept pandemic emergency funds in April, and the decrease comes as applicants are soaring.

State data obtained by FOX 10 reveals 811,000 Arizonans collected SNAP benefits in January. Now it's grown more than 100,000. 913,000 people collected in August.

There's been an increase of 52,000 people in the last two months alone.

"I understand why," said Fritsche, who lives in a mobile home.

"It's a perfect storm," said Mary Alice Theroux, who represents the Arizona Association of Manufactured Home, RV & Park Mode Owners.

"It’s extremely important. It makes the difference if you eat, or you don’t eat. And so it’s life or death for those people. They’d go hungry otherwise. They’d be hungry otherwise. In America being hungry is unacceptable," she said.

Fritsche says she isn't hungry thanks to SNAP benefits and food banks.

"I'm alright now, but if the food keeps going up.."

Tough choices will have to be made.

Continuing coverage