By Brenda Palomo, SNAP Outreach Coordinator
When I first started at the Food Bank of Delaware earlier this year, our SNAP Outreach Program was brand new as well. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is designed to help low-income households supplement their budgets so they don’t have to sacrifice their nutrition in order to pay for other essentials. Motivated by the unfortunate statistic that approximately a quarter of all Delawareans eligible for SNAP benefits did not receive them, we got to work.
In the six months since, we have worked with existing partners and built new partnerships with the purpose of spreading the word about SNAP benefits and letting people know that the Food Bank of Delaware is here to help. We have attended health and community fairs, food distribution events and held presentations throughout the state in an attempt to inform low-income households – particularly those including elderly people, migrant workers and working families – about the assistance available to them.
In our work, we have come across many people who have been in dire need of assistance, but never knew it was available for them. Many of these people are hard workers who have fallen on difficult times. They have been focused on achieving a balance between making ends meet and affording a better future for their children. Many did not know that they could receive benefits if they were working.
Mrs. Walters*(name changed) of Georgetown, and her husband, 58 and 60 respectively, have worked tough jobs all their lives. Forced to drop out of school at an early age, in order to care for her oldest child, Ms. Walters never received her high school diploma. Nonetheless, Mr. and Mrs. Walters always found ways to make sure they could provide for themselves and their three children, no matter how difficult times got. At one point Mrs. Walters worked at two different poultry plants, averaging about 12-14 hour workdays, during which she spent almost the whole time on her feet.
Now that her three children, all of who have served in the military, are grown up and on their own, Mrs. Walters has been able to stop working in order to care for her knee problems incurred from standing such long hours at work. Her husband, however, continues to work long hard days, and making ends meet is a struggle.
When I met Mrs. Walters at the Georgetown Library to help her apply for SNAP benefits online, she was proud to tell me that she and her husband had never applied for assistance before. “We don’t want to take advantage of anyone, especially, if other people need the help more than us,” she declared. However, now that bills are tight and the economy is rough, she appreciated knowing that there were people like me to help relieve some of the burden.
The Food Bank of Delaware is now a registered community partner on the State of Delaware’s Assist website, and we can process applications on behalf of any client who is interested. This has been particularly helpful in cases where clients are elderly, unable to navigate the internet or get to the state service center. Applications can be filled out online, supporting documents can be faxed or mailed in and interviews can be conducted over the phone. Now clients don’t even have to step a foot in the State Service Center.
“I really do appreciate that you’re going the extra mile to help me. It really makes it so much easier to know that you can meet me at the library and fill out the paperwork with me,” Mrs. Walters commented. “I can tell you like your job, and you really want to help people.”
And I do, fortunately, love my job and the rewards of knowing I can help people like Mrs. Walters and her husband improve their lives. Mrs. Walters hopes SNAP benefits will help her and her husband make ends meet while she stays home to complete her GED this semester. Once she achieves her goal, she says, “I’m going to get myself a job!” with the hopes that she can increase the household income, and bills will not be such a burden.
For more information on our SNAP Outreach Program, please visit www.fbd.org/snap-outreach. If you would like to support our efforts, host a SNAP Outreach effort at your agency or need help applying for SNAP food benefits, please contact the Food Bank of Delaware’s SNAP Outreach Coordinators below:
Brenda Palomo (Kent and Sussex County)
(302) 424-3301 ext. 107
Matt Talley (New Castle County)
(302) 292-1305 ext 249
Or got to the ASSIST Website at https://assist.dhss.delaware.gov