Food Bank coordinators help navigate neighbors’ way to SNAP benefits
April 21, 2021
It’s no surprise that during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Food Bank of Delaware has seen not only an increased demand for emergency food, but also more requests from people seeking for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) benefits. While SNAP is a federally funded program administered through the state, the Food Bank has been authorized to assist people navigate the process of submitting required paperwork needed to receive benefits.
One of the Food Bank’s Outreach Coordinators, Melissa Gibbs (pictured), says she has assisted nearly double the number of applicants daily since the start of the pandemic; she conducts tele-meetings in keeping with COVID protocol. “I meet with 5-10 applicants a day. It didn’t happen overnight though,” she said. “It’s been consistent though, and as time went on with people being under-employed, particularly in the food service area.”
The Food Bank offers a convenient way to meet people’s needs; some people are reluctant – or lack transportation – to go to a state service center. “It’s the first time for many people, and they don’t know what to expect,” said Gibbs. “We see people from all walks of life, not just low income.”
At this time, the Food Bank’s process is contact-less: Gibbs only conducts meetings with applicants by phone, and all documents are submitted through email. This process is for safety during the pandemic. When circumstances warrant, SNAP Outreach Coordinators look forward to meeting neighbors again in person.
Fortunately, people who need these benefits have received an increase through the USDA, the federal administrator of the SNAP program, explained Food Bank’s Community Relations Director Chad Robinson. The amount of funds a family receives is established by the USDA, based on the household size.
Gibbs explains our neighbors that she assists represent all demographics, in terms of age, race and household circumstances. “Their hours have been cut, or they choose to stay home – single moms – who can’t work without childcare. I also see quite a few people who are homeless,” she said.
SNAP Outreach Coordinators also assist applicants in providing paperwork needed to verify residency and need, documents that are shared with the state. “We are the person’s authorized representative,” said Robinson. “We make the process easier for the client, but we do not have any responsibility for the state’s decision.”
If a family needs emergency food while the application is being processed, the Food Bank offers food through our Healthy Pantry program.
Once the applicants are accepted into the program, they are monitored by the state; the Food Bank does not handle re-applications or program changes.
The SNAP benefits are now accepted for online shopping by several national retailers, including Amazon, Walmart, ShopRite, Aldi, and Food Lion.
“The people I talk to are people who have never had to use government assistance. They don’t know the first thing to do,” said Gibbs.
To learn more about programs and services provided by the Food Bank of Delaware, click here.