SNAP Benefits Help in Times of Crisis
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net. At the local level, SNAP is made more accessible to residents by the efforts of Second Harvest Community Food Bank. Second Harvest provides assistance to members applying for SNAP benefits through a program called Close the Gap.
In an effort to raise awareness about SNAP, including who is helped by SNAP and how they are helped, consider the following points:
SNAP helps families like yours. The majority of those that receive benefits from SNAP are children or the elderly. The USDA reported in 2012 that 45 percent of SNAP participants were under the age of 18 and approximately nine percent were over the age of 60. Those enrolled in SNAP are often employed, with more than 40 percent of recipients living in a household that had an income.
Many volunteers at local food banks note that there is an increase in the numbers of working low income families they observe applying for SNAP benefits or visiting the food pantry. These individuals are employed, but wage cuts or reduced work hours make it challenging to obtain the groceries they need for their families.
SNAP helps families avoid poverty. For many families, the benefits provided by SNAP play an important role in propping them up, away from the poverty line. In 2011, SNAP pulled 4.7 million households out of poverty. In the absence of SNAP’s assistance, the child poverty rate would have rated three percentage points higher.
When the economy stumbles, SNAP responds. Since the economic downturn of 2008, SNAP has expanded in an efficient way to serve those affected by the recession. Job losses and foreclosures impacted many families, but food insecurity rates remained flat. This is, in large part, due to SNAP’s assistance provided to families to put food on the table.
SNAP cuts would be devastating for many families. Cuts to SNAP have been debated frequently in recent years and months. A major cut to this program would directly result in families being suddenly unable to purchase enough food to live a healthy and active lifestyle.
Legislators, hoping to cut SNAP benefits in order to funnel the funds elsewhere, often highlight isolated cases, where the use of SNAP is for seemingly frivolous purchases. However, the people this program serves are generally individuals and families struggling to put food on the table during a temporary period of unemployment or a medical crisis.
At Second Harvest, we work with families to help them navigate the process of applying for SNAP benefits. If you are in need of assistance in applying for SNAP, or if you are interested in learning more about the resources we offer at Second Harvest, please give us a call.