What is SNAP and Why is it Important? - Capital Area Food Bank
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What is SNAP and Why is it Important?

By Brian Banks February 16, 2012

Picture yourself coming home after a long day of work. Your kids are doing homework, the evening news is on, and your 6-year old daughter looks at you and says, “I’m hungry; what’s for dinner?” You know the answer to your child’s question, but because you do not want to disappoint her and you know she needs to eat, you find a way to feed her something. You may make a trip to the corner store for potato chips and juice. Maybe, you’ll boil water and add ketchup to it to make tomato soup, or maybe, you have bread so you will give her a mayonnaise sandwich with a glass of water to drink. Unfortunately, this is the reality of some of our friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors. It is our responsibility to find ways to help those in need.
The Capital Area Food Bank – serving Washington DC, Northern Virginia and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, MD – is directly involved in helping to address this need through its Public Policy & Community Outreach (PPCO) Department by providing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) outreach. Until several years ago this important program was known as food stamps, a name that people are still using today.
Why is SNAP outreach important?
The answer is that there are people who go hungry every day because they lack the resources and access needed to purchase healthy and nutritious foods. For these individuals, the United States Department of Agriculture provides SNAP.
Let me explain how our department conducts SNAP outreach. We work with those who are eligible for nutrition assistance by helping them with the entire application process—from helping them collect documentation verifying their eligibility to turning in the final application to the appropriate department on their behalf. We also attempt to track applications with the assistance of partnerships we have formed with local government agencies, community organizations, and faith-based groups.
Benefits Unclaimed
The problem is that many who are eligible do not take advantage of the program. Benefits for low-income families that are unclaimed each year amount to $65 million. These resources could make life easier for millions of people across the country. The majority of the people who need help are just like you and me. They work hard everyday, they take public transportation to work, and they drop their kids off at school. The difference is that when they go home and open their refrigerator they only see that bright light; there is no food.
USDA has done research that suggests that 96 percent of all Americans are aware of SNAP/food stamps and only 43 percent of those who do not participate actually know they are eligible. More than a third of eligible non-participants believe they are ineligible, and say they would apply if they were sure of eligibility. We also have 31 percent who would not apply for SNAP despite being eligible for the program, because they don’t understand how the program works. The CAFB has and will continue to educate all people on the benefits of SNAP outreach. It is one of the food bank’s missions we must accomplish. We have to help by breaking down the barriers to SNAP and other federal programs designed to help people in need by explaining eligibility, understanding the stigma of having to admit need, and assisting with the cumbersome enrollment process itself.
You can help the CAFB. Write your congressional representatives and ask them not to cut SNAP funding in the 2012 Farm Bill. You can also share with them a personal story about yourself, your organization or someone you know to illustrate the importance of SNAP. Got to Congress.org to find out who your congressional representatives are. And, thank you for doing your part.