SNAP Outreach in NOVA
By Amy Menzel
Have you ever spoken to a group of people and felt like they had no idea what you were talking about? This happened to me last week, as I went into a community area of Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. I went to one of the many Capital Area Food Bank’s Mobile Food Pantry distributions where individuals and families are able to receive free produce. My intention was to take and distribute information about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.
SNAP is a federal program that helps connect people of many different walks of life to food assistance. For those who qualify to receive benefits, money is supplied monthly on an Electronic Benefit Transfer card that functions similarly to a debit card. With this card, people are able to purchase food items including bread, milk, juice, meat, pasta, fresh produce and many more groceries to supplement the food in their household. Households cannot purchase tobacco, alcohol, cleaning supplies, pet food, toilet paper, toothpaste or anything else that is not considered food with their SNAP benefits.
On that beautiful, sunny day last week when I went into Fairfax County, I realized not many people previously had the opportunity to hear about SNAP and the potential value it could have for them and their families. Suddenly, it was like a new floodgate of information had been opened and people could not get the information fast enough! I was able to sit down with many families and talk to them about the application process for SNAP benefits. Smiles stretched across their faces as they realized that if they qualified, this would be of great help to them and their families.
A mother of four children under the age of ten told me she recently had to start asking her apartment manager for a discount in rent because she could not afford to cover all their expenses.
With her two year old daughter sitting on her lap, she said, “This could be a very beneficial program for me and my children.”
That day when I left, many people had SNAP information and applications in their hands. My hope is this information can become more widespread so the thousands of people who potentially qualify will apply for food assistance!