When the federal pandemic aid that had boosted food stamp benefits expired this year, analysts and advocates warned that gains in the fight against poverty and food insecurity would quickly erode. TO recent report offers early evidence that your concerns are coming true.

Consumer spending data released Friday by Morning Consult, the business intelligence firm, shows that 47% of households earning less than $50,000 per year reported receiving food benefits in May.

That was a sharp increase from 39% in February, a month before the end of the emergency allowance, monthly payments were cut by at least $95 for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in 35 states and territories that had not yet been reduced additional support before March 1. .

While households earning more than $50,000 a year spent about 9% more on groceries over the past two months, those earning less spent about 3% less of their income on food over the same period, the report found.

The divergence suggests that food inflation is affecting consumers of different backgrounds unevenly, even as price increases slow across the economy. The cost of food consumed at home. remained 5.8% higher from last month than the previous year, ahead of the general inflation rate of 4%.

«It could be that persistent inflation is hitting people’s budgets, and now it’s starting to squeeze them more and they need to rely on these other sources of income to subsidize their grocery spending,» said Sofia Baig, an economist at Morning Consult who worked at The report

“If you are used to spending so much money, taking that much money away in a month can be a budget hit,” he said of the changes in March.

The average monthly SNAP benefit fell in March, according to the latest available federal data, to $204.54 from $248.93 in February, the last month before the expiration took effect. More than 22 million households signed up for the program as of March.

The report comes weeks after the bipartisan debt limit agreement enacted tougher work requirements for many single SNAP recipients in their 50s in exchange for looser requirements for veterans, the homeless, and youth over the age of 18. foster homes. Policy analysts and hunger advocates who criticized some of those changes at the time said the Morning Consult report shows why ongoing efforts to reduce access to SNAP, both at the state and federal levels, are contributing to food insecurity.

“Circumstances for low-income households can still be pretty tough, and SNAP can play a vital role,” said Ed Bolen, director of state SNAP strategies at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a center-based think tank. left. «When that momentum wears off, households have to make ends meet with less.»

Conservative economists and lawmakers have said generous SNAP assistance is inappropriate given the nation’s persistent job market, with some arguing the program is keeping too many people out of the workforce.

An NBC News analysis of the Census Bureau and other public data found that most households receiving SNAP benefits are already working and that the program’s participation rate tracks changes in poverty levels much more closely than Unemployment.

Morning Consult also surveyed consumers about their cost-saving strategies for grocery shopping. Among other findings, 53% of low-income households said they often or sometimes ate less food to meet grocery costs, compared to 52% of middle-income respondents and 44% of middle-income respondents. high income.

The report found that wealthier households were more likely to buy in bulk. In addition, 79% of middle-income consumers and 74% of low-income consumers have turned to store or generic brands, as part of a broader trend of shoppers looking for cheaper products to avoid price increases. on many premium labels.

But even buying in bulk generally «requires more disposable income to spend up front,» Baig said. Low-income buyers may be «missing out on the benefits of being able to save per unit when you only have a certain amount of money to allocate.»