April 26, 2024

Food insecurity across the U.S. has increased in the last two years compared to 20202021. This includes Maryland, where individuals and families are still struggling to make ends meet, due in part to dramatic policy changes in 2023, including:  

  • the ending of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Emergency Allotments, 
  • resuming SNAP time limits for able-bodied adults without dependents, and  
  • returning to a tiered fee system for school meals.  

Given increased food insecurity in the state, the 2024 Maryland legislative session presented crucial opportunities to strengthen and expand hunger programs at the state level. Maryland has a particularly short session, with only 90 days from early January to early April. The 500+ bills that passed this year are currently being signed into law by Gov. Wes Moore 

The two key priorities for Maryland Hunger Solutions this year were:  

  1. increasing the Maryland SNAP minimum benefit to $95 per month, and  
  2. implementing universal school meals in Maryland.  

Unfortunately, anti-hunger advocates faced an uphill battle in passing any significant legislation this year in light of a grim state budget outlook. Advocates made the case that, even in tough budget years, it is important to make investments in anti-hunger programs that provide resources to our most vulnerable residents and lead to long-term positive economic impacts, improved educational outcomes, and health care cost savings. 

How Maryland Hunger Solutions Took Action 

Supplementing SNAP 

Maryland Hunger Solutions worked with legislators to draft a state supplemental SNAP benefit bill, modeled on the successful policy passed in 2023 in New Jersey. The Maryland bill called for increasing the minimum monthly benefit for all participant categories to $95, with the state paying for the difference. The current federal minimum benefit is $23 per month. 

Maryland Hunger Solutions launched a coalition of advocates, including nonprofits, city and county agencies, state agencies, private sector entities, and individuals, to fight for this bill and worked closely with legislators leading up to and throughout the session to encourage its passage. House Bill (HB) 666/Senate Bill (SB) 35, sponsored by Del. Shetty of Montgomery County and Sen. McCray of Baltimore City, ultimately passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by Gov. Moore on April 25. However, the final version was heavily amended: The new state supplement will benefit older adults who are ages 60 and over and increase their current minimum monthly benefit from $40 to $50. This is a small step in the right direction, and we plan to advocate again in 2025 for a state supplement that will impact children and adults of all ages.  

Healthy School Meals for All  

2024 was the third year that Maryland Hunger Solutions advocated for Healthy School Meals for All in our state, following the lead of the 10 states that have successfully implemented this policy in the last two years.  

We have a large and well-established Healthy School Meals for All Maryland coalition that we co-lead with the American Heart Association. HB 696 and SB 579, led by Del. Palakovich Carr of Montgomery County and Sen. Guzzone of Howard County, were reintroduced after failing to pass in 2023 and aimed to secure state funding to provide school meals at no cost to all Maryland students regardless of economic status.  

HB 696 garnered an impressive 62 co-sponsors, demonstrating the hard work of our coalition. Unfortunately, despite overwhelming support, the legislature once again failed to make this important investment in Maryland students and instead passed a highly amended bill that calls for a study and provides no additional funding for school meals.  

Maryland Hunger Solutions was disappointed in the final bill, as we believe a study is not a meaningful step toward supporting our state’s school meal programs or the success of students. Furthermore, numerous studies and reports have been published within the past five years, outlining the benefits of providing school meals at no cost to students and documenting lessons learned and best practices from states that have passed similar legislation. Maryland Hunger Solutions will continue to lead efforts to universalize school meals in Maryland in the 2025 legislative session. 

Reimbursing Victims of Electronic Benefits Theft  

While anti-hunger advocates weathered several disappointments in the 2024 session, we are celebrating a victory in our ongoing efforts to ensure that victims of SNAP benefit theft in our state are reimbursed in full by our state Department of Human Services (DHS).  

In the 2023 session, we worked with DHS and legislators to successfully pass the Prevent Electronic Benefits Theft Act of 2023, which required DHS to reimburse SNAP participants who experienced Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) theft between January 2021 and September 2022. This state bill complemented the fiscal year 2023 Omnibus federal funding bill passed by Congress in December 2022, which included a requirement for states to reimburse benefits stolen between October 1, 2022 and September 30, 2024.  

Since this policy went into effect last year, tens of thousands of households have received reimbursements for stolen benefits, and the DHS online reimbursement application has been very successful.  

However, during the 2024 session, a bill was introduced that would have amended the 2023 law to require DHS to reimburse householdssubject to appropriated funds” (effectively removing the mandate). Maryland Hunger Solutions and other advocates were very concerned that this amendment would lead to DHS failing to reimburse households that experience EBT theft after September 30, 2024, due to a lack of funds. We worked in partnership with anti-poverty advocates to successfully prevent this amendment from passing and are confident all EBT theft victims will be reimbursed though the end of the calendar year.

How to Get Involved 

While Maryland Hunger Solutions is grateful to advocates and legislators for the small victories achieved during this legislative session, we recognize there is still much work to be done to strengthen and expand the federal nutrition programs in the state. We look forward to working with our state and local agencies to advance program improvements for the remainder of 2024 and continuing our legislative efforts next year.   

For more information or to learn how you can get involved in anti-hunger work in Maryland, please contact Elisabet Eppes at eeppes@mdhungersolutions.org