Blog post submitted by Amy Menzel
Arlington County Department of Human Services has worked diligently for many years to bring much needed public assistance benefits to the Arlington community. Over the last couple of years amidst a challenging economy and increased need for food assistance, Arlington has stepped up to make the SNAP/Food Stamp application process more smooth and efficient. The Capital Area Food Bank is excited to highlight that Arlington County DHS has been awarded the 2011 Hunger Champion Award by USDA Food and Nutrition Services!
Arlington County DHS excels at processing SNAP/Food Stamp applications well within the 30 day allotment period, resulting in a quick turn-around time for applicants in need of the benefits. This office also administers phone waivers which enables applicants to have the required interview over the phone. This is especially helpful for those households with seniors, persons with disabilities, working persons and single parents who may find it difficult to get to the local office for their interview.
A critical goal of SNAP is to ensure those who are eligible to receive money for food are knowledgeable of the program and have the tools to apply at their fingertips. The “participation rate” refers to the actual percentage of people receiving benefits versus the total amount eligible. The Arlington DHS has effectively seen an increase in overall SNAP participation rates from 33.1 percent in May 2010 to 39.1 percent in May 2011. In August 2011, Arlington DHS successfully reached a 40 percent participation rate and the percentage points are still climbing! These increased applications are likely due to the overall efficiency and community access which has been provided.
The food bank’s Public Policy and Community Outreach Team works closely with Arlington County to deliver SNAP information to the public. Together they discuss areas of improvement and deliberate obstacles in the process of receiving food assistance. On several occasions an eligibility worker from the Arlington DHS has spent time in the community, side-by-side with a food bank SNAP Outreach Worker. Because there are many myths in the immigrant community about receiving food assistance, having a Spanish speaking eligibility worker directly from the office in the community is a great way to break down participation barriers.
These types of partnerships between non-profits and government services are important to meeting the needs of the community. Collaboration and innovation are fundamental elements to increase food security in the Washington metro area. As a food bank, we are proud to partner with many agencies working toward the same goal of feeding those struggling with hunger and wish to extend our congratulations and appreciation to the other agencies in our area who received national Hunger Champion 2011 awards:
Fairfax County Department of Human Services, Fairfax, VA- BRONZE
Income Maintenance Administration, Washington DC- BRONZE
Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, Landover, MD- BRONZE
Keep up the good work!