by Clara Kerrone, Marketing Intern
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is our country’s biggest and most important food assistance program. Essentially, it is food assistance provided by the USDA for low- or no-income Americans. Those who qualify receive an EBT card that allows for an average of $4 per person per day in assistance. In 2014, more than 46 million Americans fed themselves with the help of SNAP; over 70 percent of these users were households that included children.
The card is designed to be supplemental in purchasing food- not the entire budget. But for many families, it ends up being the bulk of their funding anyways. And paying for food is not their only obstacle in getting food on the table. Many families live in areas called food deserts, which are areas without immediate access to fruits, vegetables, and other healthy whole foods. Further, many of these families also do not have access to a car and therefore end up having to walk to the store or take the bus. As a result, they can only purchase what they can carry back home with them.
Many families who qualify to receive SNAP are working minimum wage jobs, and often times they are working more than just one job in order to make enough money to provide for their family. An issue with SNAP is that it is based off of a food plan that intends for all meals to be home made from scratch daily. This would be a wonderful reality, to be able to home cook every meal, but there is just one problem with it: most of the families who are working more than one job do not have that amount of time for meal preparation. The time it takes to fully prepare a home cooked and well-balanced meal is just too much when juggling two jobs and a family as well. So there we have yet another obstacle with SNAP for these families.
Luckily, in Pierce County, we have many programs to help families who are facing these issues. FISH Food Banks is an awesome local food bank that is able to turn every $1 donated into $7 worth of food! More than 97% of funds raised go directly to putting food on the tables of people in need. Emergency Food Network is able to give every person that walks into their food bank enough food for 9 meals. Pierce Transit is also an awesome bus system that we have which covers a great deal of our county with tons of bus stops. Our community is working at great lengths to remove these obstacles from families benefiting from the SNAP program.
There are a number of ways you can give back to help these families that are struggling to put food on the table. Donating to your local food bank is a great way to help, as is volunteering at these places. For your own personal learning opportunity, you could even try the SNAP challenge. Compute the amount of assistance your family would receive for one week ($4 per person per day), hide away all the food that you own, and live a week with this lifestyle. Use the bus system to get to and from the grocery store and work. We could all benefit from living life in someone else’s shoes for a week, and gaining a greater appreciation for the world around us.