As the recession continues, more and more states are realizing that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, is a valuable tool for simultaneously helping people through rough times and boosting local economic activity.
Accordingly, many states have taken steps to increase the availability of food stamps: New Mexico recently eased its eligibility requirements so that families with incomes between 130% and 165% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines can enroll, and, as Minnesota is considering, eliminated its asset test. Michigan has set its income limit to 200% of the Poverty Guidelines and is only considering assets to decide who gets expedited service. The Food Research and Action Center is keeping track of all 50 states’ changes in an asset test map and an income limit map.
But changing eligibility criteria only helps if people actually participate in the program, and that’s where Food Banks come into the picture. In North Carolina, Food Banks have collaborated in the creation of a SNAP outreach website. Food Banks in Texas gained permission from Health and Human Services for staff in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio to perform the formal client interviews.
In Michigan, the Food Bank Council and its members decided to pull together to meet the need. As a result, trained volunteers equipped with ARRA-funded laptops will soon be visiting food distribution sites across the state, providing guidance to clients who wish to apply for benefits online. Michigan calls SNAP the Food Assistance Program (FAP).
The Food Bank Council of Michigan’s members include:
Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank (Comstock Park)
Food Bank of Eastern Michigan (Flint)
Food Bank of South Central Michigan (Battle Creek)
Food Gatherers (Ann Arbor)
Forgotten Harvest (Oak Park)
Gleaners Community Food Bank (Detroit)
Kalamazoo Fishes and Loaves
Manna Food Project (Petoskey)
Mid-Michigan Food Bank (Lansing)
More articles on Minnesota’s efforts can be found here and here. Texas likewise has gotten (and is still getting) a lot of attention from the press and is correcting common misconceptions about the program.