ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — More than half a million New Mexicans will see the amount of money they have to spend on groceries each month shrink significantly when the U.S. government cuts off extra aid that had been doled out during the coronavirus pandemic.

Top public health officials in the poverty-stricken state issued the warning Thursday, saying it will take a mix of short- and long-term efforts to fill the gaps that will be created when the extra food assistance ends after next month.

New Mexico has one of the highest rates in the nation for food insecurity among children, putting the state at the top of the list when it comes to the percentage of residents and families who receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

That means there will be more pressure on food banks that already are dealing with long lines, fewer donations and higher prices due to inflation, officials and advocates said.

“We’re doing what we can in the face of the short notice of the feds cutting this emergency benefit. We didn’t think it would come this soon, but it has,” said Dr. David Scrase, head of the New Mexico Human Services Department.

Scrase said some of the longer term solutions to strengthen the safety net would involve funneling more money toward school meals, making food accessible to children during the summer months and bolstering access for low-income families to fruits and vegetables at local farmers’ markets.

Karmela Martinez, director of the agency’s income support division, said it’s a problem that not just one agency or one food pantry can solve.

Sherry Hooper, executive director of The Food Depot in Santa Fe, also raised concerns that the federal government will be curbing funding that supports The Emergency Food Assistance Program, another key emergency food assistance program that New Mexicans rely on.

That program was responsible for distributing more than 11.6 million pounds of food to 385,000 families for the year ending June 2022, she said.

State officials provided some examples of how much of a decrease families and individuals could see following the final distribution of extra benefits in February. Two parents and a child could see their allotment drop from $740 per month to $335, but officials stressed it will depend on the size of the family and their income.

The advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children is pushing for lawmakers to increase by nearly four-fold an existing state $175 child tax credit, saying that would help to offset the loss of the extra federal benefits and address the continued financial fallout from the pandemic for low-income families.

The legislative session began Tuesday. In her address to lawmakers, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she would pursue funding to eliminate the cost of school meals for every child in the state, another step that officials in her administration said would help fill the gap.