By Tobey Solomon-Auger
This Hunger Action Month, we wanted to take a moment to talk about food benefits, and how instrumental they are in the fight against hunger.
About 40 million people in the US benefit from SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Half of SNAP recipients are children. Like food banks, SNAP serves to protect those who are most vulnerable in our communities.
In Washington, SNAP is called the Basic Food Program. 1 in 8 Washingtonians use Basic Food benefits.
Washington ranks 10th in the country in overall wealth, and 34th in food insecurity, according to Northwest Harvest data. This is a humbling picture of our state, and it shows that we all have a lot of work to do in the fight against hunger here in WA.
The average household in WA receives $203 monthly in food benefits or $1.32 per person per meal. If you are someone who doesn’t receive benefits, take a moment to think about how your shopping habits might look differently on this program. For many families, even the maximum SNAP benefits each month are not nearly enough, while rising food costs are adding to the challenge– one of the main reasons we often see an increase in the number of visits to the food bank towards the end of the month.
At the start of the pandemic, Congress passed emergency measures making it easier for people to sign up quickly, and maintain their benefits without risk of being kicked off or having to go to an office in person to prove their income. Washingtonians also began receiving emergency supplements for the maximum benefits based on household size. Because of these measures, more than 6 million people across the US were able to sign up between February and May, while unemployment struggled to keep up with demand. However, now that the current administration is pushing a return to “normal” SNAP operation, many families are at risk of losing their benefits.
Programs like food benefits and food banks mean that families don’t have to decide between buying food and paying rent or purchasing other essentials. In the long term, SNAP lifts families out of poverty, and bolsters the economy by putting dollars directly into local stores. The CBPP found that in Washington, SNAP kept 186,000 people out of poverty, including 80,000 children each year from 2013-2016.
In the midst of this pandemic and global recession, there has never been a more important time to advocate for increased SNAP benefits.
Steps you can take to advocate for food benefits:
– Send a message to Congress urging them to increase SNAP benefits by 15%
– Find out if your local grocery store or Farmer’s Market accepts EBT, and if not encourage them to apply!
– Follow Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition to stay updated on their 2020 legislative agenda and continue to advocate for change in Olympia and Washington
To apply for Basic Food benefits in WA call 1-877-501-2233.