CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – According to the United States government, about one in eight Americans are now on food stamps, and their increased food stamp benefits are about to go up again.

“A lot of people don’t understand that because they’ve never had that need before. They’ve always had enough food, they’ve always been able to provide everything they need for their children. It’s something that people take for granted, that they don’t think of on a regular basis,” Jodie Breitkreutz, Food Pantry Manager of Covenant House said.

The Biden administration has approved a permanent increase in the levels of food stamp assistance available to needy families. The 25% increase is the largest in the program’s history.

“During the pandemic when they were giving extra in food stamps we were still busy, we still had a lot of families come in here. I think they need to lower the income limit, so that more families qualify for food stamps,” Breitkreutz said.

The increased assistance will be available indefinitely to all 42 million beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, like John Brown who knows what it’s like to go hungry.

It’s painful emotionally and also physically. You see the people flying the cardboard signs, those people are starving.

John Brown, Food Stamps Recipient

The average monthly per person benefits will rise from $121 and $157. In the meantime, food pantries like the Covenant House continue to provide to the needy.

“They come in and they’re like ‘I’ve never had to do this before, it’s humiliating’, and we’re always like ‘if this helps you, use it’. Don’t be embarrassed to come here,” Breitkreutz said.

“To me, they should never be embarrassed in the first place. Everybody needs a helping hand, there’s not a lot of good paying jobs in West Virginia. There is no shame for living here, needing food, and being poor. That’s a part of life,” Brown said.

The increased food stamp benefits will begin in October.