Waco, TX (FOX 44) — Many Americans will have to face the challenge of putting food on the table as the pandemic-era boosts to SNAP benefits ended this week.

Food stamp recipients will now receive $90 a month less in benefits amounting up to $3 billion a month across the nation.

Shepherd’s Heart food pantry in Waco says it’s prepared for more families and individuals needing support.

It’s executive director, Robert Gager says their audience needing this support is changing.

“I think it’s important for the community to know something about this process. They think that there’s people that don’t have jobs and don’t want to work that are coming for food. That’s not even the case. A lot of the people that are coming from for food are people that have jobs,” said Gager.

Gager says more middle class customers are needing help due to the increased cost at grocery stores and overall inflation.

It gives these families more leeway to make ends meet.

“All of a sudden maybe they’ve got three or four kids, two car payments, a house payment and all the other bills,” said Gager.

Throughout McLennan and Falls County, Shepherd’s Heart does 19 mobile distributions a month meeting people where they live.

Shepherd’s Heart has seen a 20% increase in new clients since 2020.

As more people come for help, Gager says the food pantry won’t slow down.

“Last year we served just under 75,000 families. 3.9 million pounds of food went through here,” said Gager.

To support families in need in this time, Sheperd’s Heart has hired additional staff to help register anyone for food stamps.

For food inventory, Gager says they’ll always have something to provide.

“We have a lot of horsepower here with the ability to store fresh food and keep it frozen and things like that. Smaller pantries just don’t have that kind of capacity, and we have the capacity to handle a lot of pallets of food and be able to process it,” said Gager.

Another way Shepherd’s Heart is fighting food insecurity this March is through it’s Hunger Hero challenge.

It’s their second year having the challenge where the goal is for businesses to raise food and money for the kids.

Shepherd’s Heart has seven open pantries at schools in our area on top of mobile food distributions.

The food and money raised will help Shepherd’s heart continue this work over the summer.

“According to Waco data, there’s 38,000 children under the age of 18 in our community. 9000 of those children are food insecure and they don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Gager. “The kids that are at or below the poverty line are the kids that we’re out trying to resolve something for so that they have food.”

The challenge is for businesses to raise the most food or money for children.

As of March 2, there’s 20 businesses participating.

You can donate online for yourself or on behalf of a participating business by clicking on this link.

The deadline is March 31.