By Gwen Hill MS, RD, LD
I recently read an update from Hunger-Free Minnesota’s 3-year campaign, which aims to close the hunger gap in Minnesota by 2014 with the help of many corporate and non-profit community partners. One of their action plans aims to sign more people up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and this plan has achieved spectacular results already. It was launched in Feb 2012, specifically targeting seniors and newly unemployed people.
What is SNAP?
SNAP is a federally funded program, formerly known as food stamps. It aims to alleviate hunger and improve nutrition by increasing the food purchasing power of low-income households, enabling them to obtain a more nutritious diet by preparing food at home.
The vast majority of those eligible for SNAP are not the homeless; rather they are people who simply do not have enough money to meet all financial strains they are responsible for. They are low-wage workers, children, senior citizens, people with disabilities or the recently unemployed. New changes in the eligibility requirements have increased the number of people who can benefit from this program.
Food insecurity in Minnesota
According to Hunger-Free Minnesota’s research, 1 in 10 Minnesotans miss an average of 10 meals per month due to food insecurity, equaling about 100 million missing meals per year. This equates to $1.2 billion or more in health care and education costs. About 40% of the hungry in Minnesota are children.
According to Hunger-Free Minnesota, our state has the means to provide the missing meals and they hope to minimize all missing meals by the year 2014.
Expanding the reach of SNAP
Advocacy for SNAP is taking place through various organizations, such as Hunger-Free Minnesota and Hunger Solutions. These organizations are strategically targeting eligible people via flyers, posters, courtesy calls, radio ads, web marketing and more.
In June 2009, there were 17,970 enrolled out of 78,000 eligible people aged 65 and older, and participation rates had remained flat for the 19 years prior. The outreach led by these organizations in the past year has increased calls made to the Minnesota Food HelpLine by 200%, showing that their marketing strategy is working!
Open Arms reaches out to seniors
Open Arms is proud to say that we have been working in partnership with Metro Meals on Wheels to reach out to area seniors to increase their usage of SNAP.
Research shows that 88,000 seniors live below the poverty line and less than half of them access SNAP. They often think they don’t qualify or they don’t want the stigma of being on “food stamps.” This outreach will help these seniors increase their food budget so they can maintain a more fulfilling, less worrisome life.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can combat hunger in our state, check out Hunger Solutions or Hunger-Free Minnesota. Hunger Solutions of Minnesota is hosting a Food Access Summit in Duluth on August 21-23 for those working to increase access to healthy food for low-income Minnesotans.