Making a Difference
Effective SNAP Strategies Tailored to Target Groups
Food Research and Action Center
1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009
October 2011 (202) 986-2200 www.frac.org
The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is the leading national organization working for
more effective public and private policies to eradicate domestic hunger and undernutrition. Sign
up for FRAC's Weekly News Digest at www.frac.org.
This report was prepared by FRAC SNAP Fellows Anne Bellows and Lindsey Barnett,
Congressional Hunger Fellow Daniel Burke, and FRAC consultant Lauren Arms Ledwith under the
supervision of FRAC Legal Director Ellen Vollinger. FRAC also acknowledges information and
technical assistance from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
FRAC gratefully acknowledges the following funders for their support of our work on SNAP in
Annie E. Casey Foundation
ConAgra Foods Foundation
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
General Mills Foundation
Land O'Lakes Foundation
Leaves of Grass Fund
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
New Directions Foundation
Open Society Foundations
Table of Contents
Introduction ........................................................................................................................ 1
Reaching Out to Newly Jobless Workers ................................................................................. 2
Attracting Low-Income Workers ............................................................................................ 5
Outreach to Working Families with Children............................................................................ 6
Reaching Out to Military Families and Veterans ....................................................................... 9
Outreach in Health Care Settings ......................................................................................... 10
Strategies for Reaching Older Americans .............................................................................. 15
Reaching Out to Latinos...................................................................................................... 19
Outreach to Immigrants ..................................................................................................... 21
Outreach to Homeless People .............................................................................................. 25
Enrolling Needy Students .................................................................................................... 29
Outreach at Recertification .................................................................................................. 32
Reaching Rural Populations ................................................................................................. 35
Grocers and Outreach......................................................................................................... 38
Strategies for Emergency Food Providers ............................................................................. 42
This toolkit is a collection of information and best practices to guide outreach efforts for the
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program).1 It
complements FRAC’s “SNAP/Food Stamps Outreach and Access Toolkit,” which explains the
rationale of SNAP outreach, the business case of increasing participation, and the data sources
for effective messaging and outreach efforts.
SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger. Benefits are provided to needy households
through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards for purchase of food at grocery retailers. Each
SNAP benefit dollar is 100 percent federally-funded and according to USDA economists every one
dollar in new SNAP benefits generates approximately $1.79 in economic activity.2 The average
monthly benefit for the average household in 2010 was $287.3
In 2010, the government reported that 48.8 million Americans lived in households that faced a
constant struggle against food insecurity, meaning that their access to adequate food is limited
by lack of money and other resources.4 According to an ongoing Gallup poll analyzed by FRAC,
from 2008 through 2010, 18 percent of Americans experienced “food hardship,” meaning that
they did not have enough money to buy food that they or their family needed.5 For the third
quarter of 2010 through the second quarter of 2011, every state but three reported double-digit
unemployment and underemployment.6
Nonetheless, in 2009, nearly 12 million people who were eligible for and needed SNAP did not
receive benefits – one of out every three eligible people.7 With the recession having pushed
millions more people into financial need, the number eligible for but not receiving SNAP has likely
This toolkit highlights strategies focused on particular underserved populations and on reaching
eligible people where they gather, shop, learn, work, and access other services. Underserved
groups include newly jobless workers, low-wage workers, older Americans, Latinos, immigrants,
homeless people, and financially needy students. The “place-based” strategies outlined range
from those through health sites and grocery stores, to mobile van outreach in rural areas and
tools that connect people with benefits via the Internet.
Each of the examples has been tried in one or more communities, all with lessons learned. And
most examples provide links to more information and materials that can help others replicate
and/or adapt the approach to local circumstances.
Please send any feedback and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Effective October 2008, the federal government changed the official name of the program from the Food Stamp Program to the
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”). Many still use “food stamps” to refer to the program. State names for the program
vary from SNAP to Food Stamps to 3SquaresVT to Food Share to others.
Hanson, Kenneth. The Food Assistance National Input-Output Multiplier (FANIOM) Model and Stimulus Effects of SNAP. ERR-103. U.S.
Dept. of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. October 2010. www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR103/ERR103.pdf
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Research and Analysis, Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2010, by Esa Eslami, Kai Filion, and Mark Strayer. Project Officer, Jenny Genser. Alexandria,
VA: 2011. www.fns.usda.gov/ora/MENU/Published/SNAP/FILES/Participation/2010Characteristics.pdf
Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Mark Nord, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson. Household Food Security in the United States in 2010. ERR-
125, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. September 2011. www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR125/ERR125.pdf
FRAC, Food Hardship in America Data for the Nation, States, 100 MSAs, and Every Congressional District (August 2011),
FRAC, SNAP and U-6 Participation, www.frac.org/reports-and-resources/snapfood-stamp-monthly-participation-data/snap-and-u-6-
Leftin, Joshua, Esa Eslami, and Mark Strayer. Trends in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation Rates: Fiscal Year 2002
to Fiscal Year 2009, Mathematica Policy Research. August 2011.
Reaching Out to Newly Jobless Workers
Since the recession began, growing numbers of previously middle-income people have found themselves
in need of social services because of job loss or cutbacks in hours of work. In August 2011,
approximately one in six workers was unemployed or underemployed and the average duration of
unemployment was 40 weeks.8 In August 2011, 14 million American workers were unemployed.9 For
many facing new employment hardships, a lack of awareness of their potential eligibility and a lack of
information about how to apply are barriers to SNAP access. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS),
state SNAP agencies, anti-hunger advocates, and other community stakeholders can mount targeted
efforts to assist jobless persons in obtaining—and retaining—SNAP benefits.
For data regarding joblessness: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/home.htm
For a comparison on SNAP participation rates and unemployment rates by state, see FRAC’s
SNAP and U-6 chart: http://frac.org/reports-and-resources/snapfood-stamp-monthly-
Getting Basic Information to First-Time Applicants
Many jobless persons are first-time applicants for public benefits, including for SNAP. An FNS leaflet
directs first-time applicants to contact its toll-free help line (1-800-221-5689) for assistance in obtaining
SNAP. The FNS flier “10 Steps to Help You Fill Your Grocery Bag” gives tips for using the FNS web-based
SNAP prescreening tool, obtaining an application, and preparing for an interview with an eligibility
worker. It includes a list of documents that are helpful to have for the interview. Another resource to
direct the newly jobless to government benefits, including SNAP is the website www.benefits.gov.
FNS, “10 Steps To Help You Fill Your Grocery Bag,” (January 2011):
The U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration offers the
www.careeronestop.org resource, where workers experiencing job loss can learn more about government
services and benefits, including SNAP in their state. CareerOneStop also connects visitors to the FNS
SNAP eligibility prescreener.
Technology-based Initial Application Strategies
Newly jobless people, including those who have never applied for public benefits before, now turn to the
Internet for information about SNAP. In over 30 states, low-income persons, either on their own or with
assistance from a community-based organization, can utilize web-based tools to apply for SNAP. Jobless
persons can prescreen themselves over the Internet, using the FNS website’s national prescreening tool
or state-specific prescreeners available on many state government websites.
For newly jobless workers, beginning the enrollment process online, faxing in documents, and completing
telephone interviews are welcome alternatives to visiting public assistance offices. Anecdotal evidence
suggests that those with experience in office settings tend to be comfortable navigating the Internet and
using new technologies. Moreover, applying online can be more convenient, especially for those with
transportation limitations. This method also affords the applicant a greater sense of privacy. FNS has
released a memoranda addressing online applications’ adherence to SNAP regulatory requirements.
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t12.htm.
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf.
FNS, Online Application Review Results and Action Items, (December 17, 2010):
FNS, SNAP - Conforming to the Tri-Agency Guidance through Online
Applications, (February 18, 2011): www.fns.usda.gov/snap/rules/Memo/pdfs/Tri-
Helping Jobless Workers Recertify
Many jobless persons accessing SNAP for the first time also will have their first experience with the
recertification process, typically six to 12 months after initial certification. Therefore, providing assistance
to jobless clients at recertification should be a priority for states and community partners. In some
jurisdictions, an estimated seven in ten SNAP cases close at recertification for “procedural reasons”—such
as for missed appointments or paperwork, rather than because the household is financially ineligible.
Fortunately, FNS reimbursement funds for SNAP outreach can be used by states to support outreach
workers that help clients to recertify. FNS provides rules and resources regarding SNAP federal outreach
FNS, Outreach, www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/default.htm
FRAC, “Funding for SNAP/Food Stamps Application Assistance and Other Outreach Activities”
from “SNAP/Food Stamps Outreach and Access Toolkit,” (May 2010):
States’ online systems are avenues to promote SNAP benefit retention for jobless persons and other
clients. Self-service online recertification tools such as automated voice response systems and online
account pages are among systems enhancements that states could use to provide clients with access to
information about the status of their cases, timelines for submitting verifications, and details regarding
recertification. In addition to easing the reporting and recertification processes for clients, these tools can
cut down on required contacts between clients and caseworkers and help alleviate workload strains in
For more information on recertification strategies, please see “Outreach at Recertification” in this toolkit.
Partnering with Unemployment Insurance Agencies and Employers
Anticipating that many individuals would exhaust their Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits before
getting new work, states have reached out to long-term jobless persons with information about other
vital services and benefits, including SNAP. Massachusetts’ Department of Transitional Assistance
regularly sends inserts about SNAP to newly unemployed individuals who apply for UI benefits. In fall
2009, the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance began sending letters to individuals
exhausting UI benefits, giving them information about other available resources including SNAP.
In New York, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance is using press releases and other media
tools to promote Food Stamps (New York State has retained the original name) and other resources
available to those who have exhausted their UI benefits. Specifically, these messages promote New
York’s web-based prescreening tool, “myBenefits” located online at www.mybenefits.ny.gov. This tool
screens for Food Stamps and several other public benefit programs including; five health insurance
programs, five tax credits, the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), and cash public assistance.
Targeting outreach to downsizing companies connects jobless persons with newly-needed services. For
example, in Steuben County, the Department of Labor’s Workforce New York and the Nutrition Outreach
and Education Project (NOEP) collaborated to give laid off workers a place to turn for assistance. One
manufacturing company paid 500 laid off workers to attend a workshop and resource center set up by
Workforce New York and NOEP. At the center, the workers could make appointments for a 30 minute
counseling session during which they prescreened themselves for benefits and/or got prescreening and
application assistance from a NOEP worker. Some downsizing employers make NOEP’s information about
Food Stamps available to employees via paycheck envelopes inserts and employee break room postings.
The Hingham Journal, “Toughing it Out During Hard Times,” (March 18, 2010):
Pittsburgh Public Policy Examiner, “The Newly Unemployed Don’t Know Welfare Facts,” (August
19, 2009): www.examiner.com/x-14931-Pittsburgh-Public-Policy-Examiner~y2009m8d19-The-
The Boston Globe, “State Issues Alert on Unemployment Benefits,” (September 4, 2009):
New York State Department of Labor press release, “46,000 New Yorkers Will Lose
Unemployment Insurance this Week,” (March 31, 2010):
NOEP Paycheck Insert: www.frac.org/snapguide_2011/noep_prescreen_3_10.pub
Data Driven Partnership to Connect Unemployment Insurance Exhaustees with SNAP
In 2010, according to Benefits Data Trust (BDF), 58,000 Pennsylvanians had exhausted their
unemployment benefits but were still without work and a steady income. In November 2010 BDF, in
partnership with the Departments of Labor and Industry and Public Welfare, began the PA Benefits
Center outreach campaign to help those individuals apply for SNAP. The project aimed to submit 5,000
to 7,000 complete SNAP applicants using a data driven approach to identifying individuals for public
PA Benefits Center Project: www.bdtrust.org/links/outreachprojectspabenefitscenter.html
Attracting Low-Income Workers
SNAP is an important support for working poor people. Households with low incomes often struggle to
pay for food, housing, fuel, and medicine. SNAP helps working families pay for nutritious food and frees
up household cash to pay for other basics.
In Kentucky, Jefferson County’s “Through Any Door” program connects struggling families and individuals
with services such as health care, Medicaid, KCHIP, earned-income tax credits, and Food Stamps
(Kentucky has retained the original name). Local officials promote participation in these federal benefit
programs as a way for parents to perform better at work and their kids to perform better at school.
Press release about “Through Any Door” from Governor Beshear:
The Atlanta Community Food Bank’s (ACFB) Prosperity Campaign partners with hotels to conduct multi-
benefit screening for hotel employees. Prosperity Campaign outreach workers spend a day or two on-site,
conducting screenings one-on-one with hotel employees. Campaign outreach workers let hotel human
resources departments know how receipt of SNAP helps hotel operations, the local economy, and benefit
employees’ families directly. According to the Campaign, “access to benefits provides a more stable
workforce” and, with increased participation in programs like SNAP, “more money goes into the pockets
of working families, which in turn is invested in local goods and services.” ACFB presentations to the
Georgia Hotel Council and word of mouth are helping to expand the number of participating hotels.
ACFB also takes advantage of the Prosperity Campaign’s free tax-preparation sites to provide SNAP
prescreening and application assistance for working poor families. This partnership is particularly efficient,
as working poor people seeking help in filing tax returns often have the documentation that is needed for
a SNAP application.
Atlanta Prosperity Campaign: www.atlantaprosperity.org
Atlanta Prosperity Campaign, sample Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) flier:
Atlanta Prosperity Campaign’s prescreening postcard to employers:
Atlanta Prosperity Campaign, benefit screening event flier,
Outreach to Working Families with Children
In 2010, over 38.5 million Americans in families with children have household incomes under 200 percent
of the federal poverty level. These families have difficulty making ends meet even if they work full-time.
SNAP can be a vital support for households with low earnings, serving as an important cushion during
periods in which a parent loses his or her job or earnings fall due to illness or a cutback in hours, for
example. These families may be eligible for other nutrition benefits such as the Special Nutrition Program
for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and school meals. The need for outreach to connect working
families with nutrition benefits is absolutely critical.
Urban Institute, “Low Income Working Families: Updated Facts and Figures,” (June 2009):
Policy Changes for Working Families
One of the most effective ways to increase access to SNAP for working families is through policy changes
that expand eligibility, simplify reporting requirements, and increase benefits for families with dependent
care costs. States have the option to raise the gross income limit and disregard the assets of families
through implementing broad-based categorical eligibility. States may also choose to require only semi-
annual reporting, minimizing the burden on both families and caseworkers. The FRAC resource guide
Smart Choices in Hard Times has more information on these and other options for working families.
FRAC, “Smart Choices in Hard Times,” (February 2010):
Proactive marketing and implementation of the dependent care deduction can connect families with
support they need. In every region of the United States, a family’s average dependent care fees per
month for an infant were higher than the average amount spent on food.10 Child care is one of the many
high-cost basic needs that compete with food in the budget of low-income families.
The 2008 Farm Bill eliminated the cap on dependent care expenses SNAP households could deduct from
income. Today, the full amount of dependent care costs per child can be claimed and used to reduce
income of SNAP households. The result is higher SNAP benefits. However, many working families eligible
for this deduction either do not claim dependent care expenses at all, or do not claim the full amount for
which they are eligible. Marketing of the uncapped SNAP dependent care deduction will allow states to
reach thousands of working families with high dependent care expenses.
Organizations across the country have developed outreach materials to increase awareness about the
dependent care deduction for SNAP. Community Legal Services of Philadelphia distributes SNAP outreach
materials to working families with children to alert them to deduct dependent care expenses when
applying for SNAP. Massachusetts Legal Services also has SNAP outreach materials that facilitate the child
care deduction component of the SNAP application process. A form is provided to guide a family through
the process of self-declaring dependent care expenses.
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, “More Working Families in Pennsylvania Can Get Food
Stamps,” (September 2008): www.clsphila.org/files/FS for working families English.pdf
Massachusetts Legal Services, Child Care Deduction Flier and Statement of Child Care Costs Form
(March 2010): www.masslegalhelp.org/income-benefits/forms/childcarestatement.doc
National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care,” (2010 Update)
National Association of Child Care Resource & Related Agencies, “Parents and the High Price of
Child Care,” (2009): www.naccrra.org/publications/naccrra-publications/publications/665-
Partnerships with WIC, Head Start, and Child Care Agencies
The Montana Food Bank Network holds SNAP application workshops for service providers interested in
learning the details of SNAP. The partnership allows workers at WIC Program offices and Head Start
locations to answer questions for clients and provide application assistance. Service providers have found
these workshops to be very beneficial in reaching eligible SNAP recipients.
The Massachusetts SNAP Agency partnered with sister state agencies that offer benefits and services to
families with children such as the Department of Public Health which administers the WIC Program. WIC
staff, supervisors and case managers were trained to provide SNAP application assistance. Case
managers and supervisors from the Department of Early Education and Care (DEEC) and their
subcontractors operating Head Start Programs across the Commonwealth also attended SNAP application
Head Start is the most successful and longest-running national school readiness program in the country.
It provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income
children and their families. Nutrition outreach and education is a fixture of the Head Start model and
many Head Start locations make SNAP outreach a priority. To contact a local Head Start to inquire about
conducting SNAP outreach, check the Head Start locator on the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Montana Food Bank Network: www.mfbn.org/pub/snap
Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Food Stamp Benefits 101 Training
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Head Start Locator:
Partnerships with Schools
The Illinois Hunger Coalition has been a pioneer in working with public schools to enroll families in SNAP
and health benefits. Recognizing that children who have access to healthy and nutritious food will
perform better in school, and that schools in Illinois could receive increased state funding for each child
receiving a public benefit, the Coalition decided to partner with public schools to increase SNAP
participation. The partnership was initially funded by a USDA grant but continues today with outreach
workers in Chicago Public schools dedicated to educating parents and providing application assistance for
SNAP and health benefits.
Another avenue to reach families with children is through working with schools to include SNAP
information on lunch menus, newsletters, and websites. Nutrition Outreach and Education Program
(NOEP) coordinator Sue Segelman successfully worked with administrators in the Rochester City School
District in New York on Food Stamp outreach. She coordinated with the Food Service Director to place a
brief Food Stamp outreach pitch on school lunch menus twice per year. She also worked with the
communications director of the school district to include a short blurb about Food Stamps in the district
newsletter that went out to school administrators, teachers, and parents. Additionally, Ms. Segelman
worked to post information about Food Stamps on the school district website. In each case, her contact
information was included so that families would have a place to turn for more information and assistance
with the Food Stamp application.
The North Essex Family Success Center in New Jersey provides direct access to social services programs
by connecting state social service offices with eligible recipients. Representatives from Essex County
Welfare and New Jersey Family Care counsel potential Food Stamp recipients on their eligibility and assist
with Food Stamp applications at the Family Success Center office in the United Way building. Like New
York, New Jersey has retained the program’s original name.
Description of Family Success Center Event:
United Way, Family Success Center Contact Information:
Illinois Hunger Coalition Taking It to Schools Initiative:
Partnerships with EITC
Hunger Free Vermont encourages eligible working families with children to apply for the Earned Income
Tax Credit (EITC) so that they become income eligible for 3SquaresVT (Vermont’s state name for SNAP)
and free school meals. In Vermont, the state EITC is funded with Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families (TANF) dollars that confer categorical eligibility for SNAP. The outreach campaign is specifically
targeted to working families with children.
Hunger Free Vermont, EITC and 3SquaresVT: http://vermontfoodhelp.com/eitc
Hunger Free Vermont, Give Yourself a Raise, EITC and 3SquaresVT Flier:
D.C. Hunger Solutions, an initiative of FRAC, has been conducting SNAP outreach at EITC sites for five
years. In 2011, more than 45 volunteers at five outreach site spoke with 1,557 individuals about SNAP,
prescreened over 1,100 households, and filed over 272 SNAP applications. Because of the project’s
success it has expanded to include additional sites and two full-time staff for oversight, one of which is an
AmeriCorps VISTA. D.C. Hunger Solutions has many best practices available for consideration when
developing an EITC outreach project, including tools for staff to track efforts and outcomes. For
information on D.C. Hunger Solutions’ EITC outreach model, contact Jessica Luna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
D.C. Hunger Solutions, SNAP Prescreener for EITC outreach:
D.C. Hunger Solutions, SNAP/Food Stamp Outreach Specialist Daily Recording Form:
Reaching Out to Military Families and Veterans
In recent years, the National Guard has been increasingly used to meet requirements for missions in Iraq
and Afghanistan. While troops in active status receive military compensation year-round, some families of
reservists suffer economic loss when mobilized for extended periods. To reduce the impact of
mobilization, efforts can inform all members of entitlements and benefits and help ensure that these are
provided in a timely manner.
With Vermont's National Guard being deployed in large numbers, outreach staff reached out to military
families that might be eligible for school meals or 3SquaresVT. An article ran in "From the Homefront," a
newsletter shared with about 3,000 soldiers and their families. The article and nutrition program
information also was shared with the Vermont Family Readiness Centers and staff.
Hunger Free Vermont flier, “Let Us Serve You,” (September 28, 2011):
Although accurate numbers are impossible to come by — no one keeps national records on homeless
veterans — the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that in 2009 136,000 veterans were
homeless on any given night.11 Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men has served in this
country’s military. According to the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (U.S.
Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Urban Institute, 1999), veterans account for 23 percent of
all homeless people in America. In addition to the complex set of factors affecting all homelessness —
shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care — a large number of displaced
and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance abuse,
compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.
Across the nation, Veteran Stand Down events are held each year. Stand Down refers to a grassroots,
community-based intervention program designed to help the nation’s estimated 200,000 homeless
veterans “combat” life on the streets. Homeless veterans are brought together in a single location for one
to three days and are provided access to community resources needed to begin rebuilding their lives. In
the military, Stand Down afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and
overall sense of well-being. Today’s Stand Down affords the same opportunity to homeless veterans.
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Stand Down: www.nchv.org/standdown.cfm
In Massachusetts, Soldier On has been assisting homeless veterans since 1994. The mission at Solider On
is to offer a continuum of care that includes immediate and long-term housing, treatment and recovery
for addiction, food, and clothing, as well as medical, counseling and job-related services. Soldier On staff
have attended SNAP information sessions – allowing the group to add SNAP application assistance to its
list of available services.
Soldier On: www.wesoldieron.org/mission/
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Veteran Homelessness: A Supplemental Report to the 2009 Annual Assessment Report to Congress,”
(February 2011) www.hudhre.info/documents/2009AHARVeteransReport.pdf
Outreach in Health Care Settings
In today's world, affordable health care and access to nutritious foods remain critical issues for many
households, especially for low-income families and individuals. While health care and food assistance
programs exist, many who would qualify for these services are often unaware of their eligibility and may
not understand how the system works.
With the Food Stamp Program being renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in 2008,
the connection between this program’s benefits and healthy eating was highlighted. It is an ideal time to
partner with hospitals, health care centers, and free clinics. An endorsement from a trusted health care
provider – whether a doctor, nurse practitioner, receptionist or benefit specialist – can encourage a low-
income household to apply for SNAP benefits. Some states have successfully partnered with medical
providers and are finding that the healthy food connection is worthwhile for all.
Connecting individuals to health care also provides an opportunity to offer households SNAP benefits.
Projects offering one-stop access to Medicaid, SCHIP, Prescription Drug Programs and SNAP are growing
Partnerships with Health Care Providers
In Massachusetts, the Boston Medical Center embraced a diverse set of innovative co-located services to
promote access to nutritious food, ranging from a hospital-based therapeutic food pantry, to a seasonal
farmers’ market, to an on-site WIC office and a state SNAP outstation. An eligibility worker is available
every Friday so patients can apply for assistance on-site. The hospital also works with student volunteers
from Project HEALTH to connect pediatric patients’ families to resources. Students talk to families about
SNAP eligibility and refer them to the outstation worker to apply.
Boston Medical Center, List of Food and Nutrition Resources:
UMass Memorial Health Care is bridging the hunger-health connection by offering one-stop application
assistance for health insurance and SNAP to thousands of uninsured and underinsured children, families,
and adults, including seniors on Medicare. Health insurance enrollment counselors screen patients for
SNAP and WIC eligibility in emergency rooms, at patients’ bedsides, in outpatient clinics, on a telephone
helpline, and through a community outreach program. By taking five minutes to explain the program and
answer a few more questions on the Virtual Gateway, a web-based data intake and eligibility
determination system, UMass Memorial counselors now help patients apply for nutrition assistance
programs along with health insurance.
In Tennessee, hospitals in large urban areas host Department of Human Service workers. Uninsured
clients are referred by hospital staff to these outstationed workers. These hospital based workers screen
for benefit eligibility and complete applications for both Medicaid and SNAP benefits.
Medical Legal Partnership, “Nutrition Support Programs in the Health Care Setting: A Prescription
for Hunger Prevention,” (February 20009): www.mlpboston.org/sites/boston/files/page/EHF -
Prescription for Hunger Prevention(1).pdf
Project Bread, “Hunger in the Community: Ways Hospitals Can Help” Hospital Handbook:
The New York Times, “When Doctor Visits Lead to Legal Help,” (March 2010):
The Oregon Childhood Hunger Initiative, an effort supported by the Oregon Food Bank, created a free
online course for medical professionals called “Childhood Food Insecurity: Health Impacts, Screening, and
Intervention.” The course reviews the health effects of hunger, and discusses when and how to bring up
food insecurity with patient families. According to Anne Hoisington, a dietitian working for Oregon State
University Extension Service, 'We see this as a public health issue, not just a social problem.' The course
is sponsored by Oregon Health & Science University, accredited by the American Medical Association and
offered through Oregon State University. Physicians can receive Continuing Medical Education (CME)
credits for taking the course. In just over one year, more than 600 have registered for the course and an
additional 3,300 have visited. More than half of registrants report that they will change their medical
practice as a result of the course, including assessment for hunger risk and sharing food assistance
information with patients.
Oregon's Childhood Hunger Coalition has also developed an outreach toolkit for medical professionals
containing useful resources regarding the health consequences of childhood food insecurity and how
health care providers can address hunger in the clinical practice. The toolkit includes a comprehensive
literature review of childhood hunger, information about the CME course mentioned above, a ‘screening
and intervention algorithm’ to suggest to physicians how to broach and handle food insecurity during
consultations, and samples of brochures and materials available for free about WIC, SNAP, and other
programs. Several thousand physicians and others received copies of the toolkit initially.
Oregon’s Childhood Hunger Coalition: www.childhoodhunger.org
Oregon State University, “Childhood Food Insecurity: Health Impacts, Screening, and
Intervention,” Online course: www.ecampus.oregonstate.edu/workforce/childhood-food-
Bruce Goldberg and Dana Hargunan, “Physicians and Hungry Children,” (Op-ed in The
Oregonian, March 31, 2010):
The Oregonian, “More kids starving for nourishment,” by David Sarasohn, (November 7, 2009):
Recognizing the positive health impacts of diets with fresh fruits and vegetables, Kaiser Permanente hosts
farmers’ markets at 30 hospital and medical office buildings across five states. These markets began
when a doctor noticed vendors in the lobby selling crafts and thought selling nutritious food would be
better suited to the organization’s healthcare mission.
Beyond hosting its own farmers’ markets, Kaiser Permanente and its regional offices provide grants for
other local markets to incentivize SNAP recipients. At participating farmers’ markets in Contra Costa
County California, shoppers that spend $10 in SNAP benefits receive an additional $5 to spend. Incentive
projects at farmers’ markets are growing in popularity across the country.
Los Angeles Times, “Kaiser Permanente farmers markets put nutrition within reach,” (May 20,
Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association, “Farmers’ markets offer incentives to food stamp
recipients,” (July 1, 2010): www.pcfma.com/blogs/?p=248
Kaiser Permanente, Farmers’ market locator:
Kaiser Permanente, Community Health Initiatives (includes best practices and resources for
groups interested in similar projects):
In Florida, the Heartland Rural Health Network is an association of over 20 health and social service
providers serving five rural counties. In addition to outreach work with Food Assistance (Florida’s state
name for SNAP), this organization participates in a number of projects including services for breast
health, prescription assistance, low-cost universal service support, and homelessness. The Food
Assistance outreach campaign focuses on seniors as one of its counties has the second highest senior
population in the United States.
Heartland Rural Health Network hired one Outreach and Eligibility Specialist, partnered with organizations
that target low-income seniors, and developed relationships with local government offices to troubleshoot
issues and answer application questions. Staff complete prescreening and provide application assistance
and education to individuals, caregivers, and loved ones. The program’s education component also
extends to representatives from senior organizations. A portion of the seniors served by the network are
homebound and visits to these seniors average three per month. Staff also offers prescreening services
over the telephone.
Heartland Rural Health Network tracks client cases and follow-up with clients on a scheduled basis to
learn case outcomes. Some of these outcomes include the: number screened per month, number of
submitted applications/reapplications per month, case approval and denial information, and benefit rates.
The average and largest SNAP senior benefit per month are $100.59 and $367.00 per month,
respectively. Having these quantifiable outcomes gives outside agencies good reason to commit to
helping the program continue.
Heartland Rural Health Network: www.hrhn.org/index.htm
Heartland Rural Health Network, SNAP Outreach Program:
Partnering with Health Insurance Programs
The Kingsley House in New Orleans, Louisiana operates the Our Health Care For All (HCFA) program. It is
dedicated to reaching out to families and connecting them with essential resources and services. Since
Hurricane Katrina, HCFA has assisted thousands of families complete and submit Medicaid, LACHIP and
SNAP applications. “Walkers/Talkers” conduct door-to-door needs assessments to identify families that
qualify for services and provide them with application assistance. Staff also assist with collecting
necessary documents and verifications.
Kingsley House: www.kingsleyhouse.org/our_programs/hcfa.html
In New York City, the Medicare Rights Center and the Food Bank for NYC partnered to increase senior
enrollment in assistance programs. Medicare Rights and the Food Bank work collaboratively through
hotlines and field sites to enroll seniors in Medicare Savings Programs, the Extra Help program under the
Medicare drug benefit, the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program, and Food
Stamps. The two advocacy organizations also work with city agencies to improve enrollment systems and
benefits administration for future enrollees. This project makes it easier for New York City seniors to
access existing public benefits.
Medicare Rights Center: www.medicarerights.org/newsroom/pressreleases/2009_10.html
Future Opportunities with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
With the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the resulting Health
Exchanges, there will be a renewed and expanded focus on reaching more eligible individuals and on
data-matching, not only to improve efficiency and reduce costs, but to more readily serve eligible
individuals in need. The overlap between those eligible for health benefits and for SNAP is expected to
increase, providing more opportunities for reaching SNAP eligible people. Federal and state computer
systems are preparing to cleanly and securely communicate client data for health benefits programs. The
software which will interpret the shared information to assess eligibility and process enrollment is already
in the development stages. As Stan Dorn, a fellow from the Urban Institute explains, “The ACA’s IT
infrastructure offers enormous potential to streamline enrollment into multiple public benefits.”
Urban Institute, “The Affordable Care Act: Opening the Door to 21st-Century Public Benefits?,”
(November 10, 2010):
On August 10, 2011 an intra-agency letter was sent to state Exchange grantees, Medicaid and CHIP
directors, and Health and Human Services directors. Administrators from the Department of Health and
Human Services along with a USDA Under Secretary notified recipients that a cost allocation exception
had been granted to facilitate the development of the state-operated Exchanges necessary to implement
the Affordable Care Act in 2014. While Medicaid, CHIP, and the Exchange will contribute funding to a
shared eligibility system, other federally funded human services, programs, such as SNAP, may “reuse
these assets […] without having to allocate those development costs […] so long as those costs would
have been incurred anyway to develop systems for the Exchanges, Medicaid, and CHIP.”
Letter from the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of
Agriculture, August 10, 2011: www.fns.usda.gov/snap/rules/Memo/2011/081011.pdf
The Department of Health and Human Services has offered “Guidance for Exchange and Medicaid
Information Technology (IT) Systems,” a joint issuance from the Office of Consumer Information and
Insurance Oversight and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. This guidance prioritizes a
collaborative atmosphere and “encourages states to work together and with federal agencies to develop
and deploy shared services to minimize the expense and reduce the risks associated with individual state,
end-to-end IT development and implementation.” Cooperation within the Federal government is also
anticipated to “ensure effective and efficient date exchange between the health system and sources of
authoritative data for such elements as income, citizenship, and immigration status.” Lastly, the guidance
argues that “a high degree of collaboration must occur between the private and public sectors to ensure
appropriate coverage and financial support for employers and employees.”
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Guidance for Exchange and Medicaid
Information Technology (IT) Systems,” Version 1.0. (November 3, 2010):
To ensure that SNAP is included in IT development projects from the beginning, advocates may consider
contacting their state agency for preliminary conversations. Recommendations from the Health
Information Technology (HIT) Policy Committee and the HIT Standards Committee included that the
eligibility and enrollment process “connects consumers not only with health coverage, but also other
human services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.”
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
Section 1561 Recommendations: Toward a More Efficient, Consumer-Mediated and Transparent
Health and Human Services Enrollment Process.” (September 17, 2010):
States are in different stages of the development process as seven states have been awarded “Early
Innovator” grants and others are waiting to learn from and adapt the early innovators work.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “States Leading the Way on Implementation:
HHS Awards “Early Innovator” Grants to Seven States.” (February 16, 2011):
Strategies for Reaching Older Americans
Older Americans who are eligible for SNAP are significantly less likely to participate in the program than
other demographic groups. In 2009, SNAP reached only 34 percent of eligible adults 60 years of age or
older.12 Many factors contribute to this low participation rate, from barriers related to mobility,
technology, and stigma, to widespread myths about how the program works and who can qualify.13
Application assistance is a particularly powerful way to overcome those barriers: outreach workers can
respond directly to the person’s concerns and confusions; and by helping clients understand and fill out
the application, gather documents, and submit the application, outreach workers can address barriers
related to mobility, technology, and cognition. This approach yields dividends for busy eligibility staff as
well. Evaluators of an application assistance project targeted to older Americans in Arizona found that
applications submitted through the project were easier to process, as they were for the most part
complete and required minimal follow-up.14
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc, “Evaluation of USDA Elderly Nutrition Demonstrations,” July
National Council on Aging. Issue Brief, “Deputizing Community Based Organizations,” (March
One of the most successful models of application assistance for seniors is Michigan’s Coordinated Access
to Food for the Elderly, or MiCAFE, originally funded by an FNS demonstration grant between 2002 and
2004. Through MiCAFE, older Americans or their caretakers can make appointments to receive application
assistance in familiar settings like senior centers, community centers, churches, and senior apartment
complexes in locations around Michigan. MiCAFE continues to serve Michigan seniors pursuant to a
demonstration waiver that includes an evaluation component. Michigan’s state name for SNAP is now
Peer-to-peer in-home assistance also proved to be a successful model stemming from a federal
demonstration grant later in 2002 and 2004. For the FACES project in Maine, potential applicants were
first identified through lists of SSI recipients not participating in the Food Supplemental Program, then by
word of mouth, and finally by canvassing in low-income areas based on information from voter lists. The
Food Supplemental Program is Maine’s state name for SNAP.
Data-driven strategies like the one used by Maine’s peer-to-peer outreach project can be an effective tool
for identifying and reaching older Americans. In addition to its online benefits check-up tool, the National
Council on Aging has developed a useful guide with many great examples of outreach and retention
models based on data-driven strategies.
National Council on Aging, BenefitsCheckUp: www.benefitscheckup.org
Working with the Benefits Data Trust, the BenePhilly Project worked to enroll 60,000 of Philadelphia’s
senior residents in Pennsylvania’s Prescription Assistance Program, Medicare prescription drug programs,
SNAP, and housing assistance. Client registers from multiple state benefit programs were compiled to
create a list of clients who were likely eligible for programs in which they weren’t yet participating.
USDA, FNS, Office of Research and Analysis, “Trends in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation Rates: Fiscal Year 2002 to Fiscal
Year 2009,” August 2011: www.fns.usda.gov/ora/MENU/Published/snap/FILES/Participation/Trends2002-09.pdf, p. 6
FRAC, “Access and Access Barriers to Getting Food Stamps: A Review of the Literature,” February 2008: www.frac.org/pdf/FSPaccess.pdf, pp. 85-90
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc, “Evaluation of USDA Elderly Nutrition Demonstrations,” July 2005:
http://ddr.nal.usda.gov/bitstream/10113/32786/1/CAT31012271.pdf. p. 21
Outreach activities centered on this list of names and ultimately, the BenePhilly project helped complete
17,500 benefit applications on behalf of older Philadelphians.
National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment, “Using Data-Driven Strategies to Enhance
Benefits Outreach, Enrollment, and Retention Activities,” (November 2009):
Benefits Data Trust, Outreach Projects: www.bdtrust.org/outreachprojects.html
In Rhode Island, a partnership with Visiting Nurse Associations (VNA) and home health aides has been
extraordinarily productive in identifying older Americans in need but who are otherwise hard to reach.
SNAP outreach staff make presentations about the program during association meetings or other
trainings, and encourage VNA staff to identify food insecure seniors that may benefit from application
assistance. Outreach workers also rely on nurses and home health aides to identify potential authorized
representatives to help the applicant handle the interview, manage contacts with the SNAP office, and
even go grocery shopping.
Other collaborations help make Rhode Island’s SNAP Outreach Project referral-based application
assistance model successful, including partnerships with Resident Service Coordinators in senior
apartment complexes, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Coordinators, congregate meal sites,
and health program enrollment initiatives.
University of Rhode Island Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America (manager of Rhode
Island’s SNAP Outreach Project): www.uri.edu/endhunger/
National Association for Home Care and Hospice agency locator: www.nahcagencylocator.com/
Visiting Nurse Associations of America agency locator:
Senior food coupons coordinators: www.fns.usda.gov/wic/seniorfmnp/sfmnpcontacts.htm
Radio advertisements are another good way to reach seniors. The Vermont Campaign to End Childhood
Hunger, now Hunger Free Vermont, collaborated with the Agency of Human Services to produce a radio
spot with messaging targeted to older Americans. The ad directs seniors to an Area Agency on Aging
(AAA) hotline, where they can schedule an appointment for one-on-one assistance. The AAAs in Vermont
reported that the ad significantly increased the number of calls they received about 3SquaresVT,
Vermont’s name for SNAP.
For a low cost alternative to creating your own ads, use FNS created public service announcements
targeting older Americans.
Vermont radio ad clip featuring Senator Bernie Sanders:
Rhode Island radio clip: www.frac.org/snapguide_2011/ri_food_stamps_2_ elderly.mp3
FNS radio ads targeted to seniors (see “early bird” and “retired”):
Outreach workers in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. are sponsoring bingo nights at
senior centers, senior housing sites, and other locations. Instead of the normal cards, players are given
bingo cards where each square has a number and a “SNAP fact” debunking a myth or giving seniors a
reason to apply. Outreach workers can stay after bingo to answer questions and make appointments to
help interested people apply.
SNAP Bingo Card from Rhode Island:
The AARP Foundation’s sponsorship of Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 car is bringing a new level of excitement to
hunger elimination. The organization’s Drive to End Hunger Initiative will have its logo prominently
displayed on the racecar for the next three years. AARP explains, “By tapping into the energy and
enthusiasm of NASCAR fans, some of the most passionate fans in any sport, AARP hopes to help build
awareness, raise funds and engage all Americans in solving the growing hunger crisis.” The AARP
Foundation has also created videos telling the stories of older Americans in need and the foundation’s
work to connect them with solutions, such as SNAP.
AARP Foundation, Drive to End Hunger Press Conference:
AARP Foundation, Out of the Shadows of Poverty, Hunger and Isolation Video:
AARP, Hunger in America Today: www.aarp.org/giving-back/charitable-giving/info-11-
AARP’s “Create the Good” offers a simple how-to for individuals interested in educating others about
SNAP. Designed to complement the use of the AARP Benefits QuickLINK prescreener, the guide includes
seven steps for connecting someone with SNAP benefits.
AARP, Create the Good, “The How-to Guide for: Help Someone Get the Food They Need – It’s a
AARP, Benefit QuickLINK,
In Connecticut, AARP Connecticut is joining forces with End Hunger CT!, Foodshare, Inc., the Connecticut
Association for Human Services (CAHS), and the Hispanic Health Council in a campaign to raise
awareness among older adults and increase enrollment in SNAP. In the state, only 34 percent of eligible
seniors participate in the program. The campaign is promoting a toll-free number that connects
interested seniors with volunteers trained to assist people with eligibility screenings and enrollment
applications. This campaign also will include webinars for organizations and businesses and a direct mail
outreach campaign directed at older, low-income adults.
In West Virginia, an AARP volunteer-staffed call center is helping connect older Americans to SNAP by
answering questions, prescreening callers with AARP’s “Benefits QuickLINK” and scheduling follow up
phone calls to provide application assistance with West Virginia’s online application. AARP gets the word
out about the service through direct mailings to AARP members and automated calls recorded by
Governor Manchin. The phone-based outreach initiative provides older Americans living in rural areas an
easy way to reach help.
Benefits QuickLINK: www.benefitscheckup.org
Crafting Messaging Specifically for Older Americans
It’s important to tailor your outreach message to older Americans. For example, you can disarm the
stigma attached to SNAP by framing it as a nutrition and health program, or a way for seniors to make
ends meet and stay independent. You can normalize the program by comparing it to popular public
programs like Medicare, Social Security, or the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Be sure to tell
seniors that they can own a home, live alone, or even work, and still be eligible for SNAP. Let them know
that by enrolling they will not be taking benefits from anyone who may need it more.
Another common belief that acts as an application barrier for older Americans is that they will qualify for
only the minimum benefit of $16 a month. One way to debunk this myth is to share the average benefit
received by households with older Americans in your state. For example, Vermont fliers report that “nine
out of ten elderly households get $50 or more a month.” Other advocates report that they tell older
Americans they can save the benefits for a few months and use them for a big family dinner, or that they
can use them to buy luxury items like cookies for tea with their friends. Some advocates have found it
useful to compare SNAP to grocery store coupons that help older Americans stretch their budgets.
Below are some examples of fliers with messaging tailored to older Americans:
Hunger Free Vermont flier, Attention Seniors Important Things To Know About 3SquaresVT:
Rhode Island flier, SNAP Facts Concerning Elderly Households:
Oregon Hunger Task Force flier, SNAP Facts for Seniors 60+:
When creating print materials for an older audience, it is important to pay attention to certain design
considerations. The below resource provides tips for novice and experienced designers:
National Institute on Aging, “Making Your Printed Health Materials Senior Friendly,” (May 2008):
Finally, one of the best ways to encourage seniors to apply is to ensure that the process will be easier
and their benefits more substantial. Encourage your state to take advantage of policy options like an SSI
Combined Application Program, or a simplified application and eligibility process for older Americans to
make the process less daunting. Policy options like “Heat & Eat” (which leverages increased SNAP
benefits through links with the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) and screening for the
medical costs deduction also can help older Americans get the maximum amount of support. See,
Strategies for States to Increase Access to SNAP/Food Stamps in FRAC’s “SNAP/Food Stamps Outreach
and Access Toolkit” for more information.
FRAC, “SNAP/Food Stamps Outreach and Access Toolkit,” (May 2010):
Reaching Out to Latinos
The Latino population in the United States is growing rapidly. Research indicates that Latino families are
more likely to live in poverty than white, non-Hispanic households. Low and very low food security rates
for Hispanic households are 17.8 and 8.4 respectively. Hispanic households have the highest rate of low
food insecurity of any reported racial or ethnic category. Analysis of Gallup data by FRAC for 2008
through 2010 found that “food hardship” rates for families with children in all but one of the
Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) districts, for which data was available, topped the national average
of 23.4 percent. CHC districts’ food hardship rates among families with children ranged from 44.9
percent, the fourth highest rate in the nation, to 23.2 percent, the only CHC district below the national
Latinos have the lowest SNAP participation rates in the country. In 2006, about 56 percent of people in
SNAP eligible households with a Hispanic head participated in the program.16 People in Hispanic-headed
households represent more than one-quarter of eligible people who do not participate.17 Latino families
face the same barriers as other SNAP eligible families, including stigma, lack of transportation, confusion
about program rules and requirements, and work schedules that conflict with eligibility office hours. Some
additional barriers that can prevent this population from accessing food stamps are culturally- and
linguistically-inappropriate materials and customer services as well as misconceptions regarding
immigration status and eligibility.
Citizenship and alien status: 7 USC § 273.4
U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics in the United States:
Partnerships with Latino organizations and those serving Latino populations, such as churches, schools,
hospitals, and clinics, are vital for creating and distributing culturally-appropriate materials. The Latino
Health Council of Hartford and the Connecticut Department of Social Services collaborated to spread the
word about SNAP using a fotonovela (a style of picture books popular in Latin America that use
photographs and dialogue to tell romantic stories) titled, “In Times of Need, Food Stamps Are Here to
Help.” Written in a culturally-appropriate format at a 6th grade reading level, the fotonovela educates the
reader about food stamps and the health benefits that may result from participating in the program.
The Hispanic Health Council has also produced two comic books and a short video. The books are also
modeled after fotonovelas, The video is a video-novella, like a mini soap opera, that tells the story of a
woman struggling to feed her family and her relief when she discovers that government nutrition
assistance can help. These materials, available in English and Spanish, have been used across the
To find out more and to view the video-novella visit:
Targeted media, such as Spanish-language radio, can be a great way to reach the Latino population.
Nashville Manna promoted SNAP on a number of Spanish-language radio stations.18 After pitching the
program and describing the eligibility process – including topics of particular interest to Spanish speaking
“Food hardship” is a measurement based upon analysis of Gallup data conducted by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). It reflects the
numbers of households answering “yes” to the question: “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to
buy the food that you or your family needed?” Food hardship rates in congressional districts represented by Congressional Black Caucus members are
included in the attached chart. The full food hardship report is available at http://frac.org/reports-and-resources/food-hardship-data/.
USDA FNS Newsroom General Fact Sheets, Reaching Low-Income Hispanics with Nutrition Assistance (March 16, 2010)
USDA FNS Newsroom General Fact Sheets, Reaching Low-Income Hispanics with Nutrition Assistance, (March 16, 2010)
Manna is now named Nashville Manna.
and immigrant households – Nashville Manna staff took questions from callers and let listeners know how
to contact the organization for more assistance. Outreach initiatives can also use Spanish-language public
service announcements, advertisements, and radio-novellas developed by FNS to reach audiences of
FNS, Radio PSAs: www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/radio/default.htm
Health services and community outreach campaigns targeted to Latinos can provide an important vehicle
for talking to families about hunger and SNAP. In Massachusetts, the Boston University School of Public
Health and the SNAP agency collaborated to create the Latino Health Insurance Program (LHIP). LHIP
conducts outreach at community sites and provides application assistance through trained community
leaders. Using culturally-specific messaging and building partnerships with community organizations,
churches, and local health centers, LHIP has been very successful in overcoming the barriers that impede
immigrant parents from enrolling their children in MassHealth, SCHIP, and SNAP.
Preventing Chronic Disease, “The Latino Health Insurance Program: A Pilot Intervention for
Enrolling Latino Families in Health Insurance Programs, East Boston, Massachusetts, 2006-2007”
(October 2009): www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2774643
The Latino Health Insurance Program, brochure:
USDA has funded a number of projects through SNAP Outreach grants seeking to increase enrollment
among Latinos. These projects use a variety of methods to attract and help Latino households apply for
SNAP. Methods include the promotora model, community enrollment clinics, traveling offices, Latino
media outlets, and SNAP information workshops.
FNS, 2008 Outreach Grant Recipients: www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/grants/2008/2008-
FNS, 2009 Outreach Grant Recipients: www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/grants/2009/2009-
FNS has provided a Spanish version of one of its most helpful tools to SNAP recipients, the SNAP Retail
Locator. Visitors to this website can find retailers near them that accept EBT cards.
FNS, SNAP Retail Locator and Spanish version: www.snapretailerlocator.com &
In May 2011, the competition Applications for Good had a team of young programmers submit an “app”
for phones that allows SNAP recipients to text their zip code or address to 1-510-470-7920 and receive a
list of the five closest authorized SNAP retailers. Since SNAPFresh is based on text messages and has no
interface, this service is accessible to users that speak English, Spanish, or any other language that uses
the Roman letter alphabet.
Helping People Find Places that Accept Food Stamps:
Outreach to Immigrants
Immigrants and those with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) face special barriers to accessing SNAP. As
outlined in FRAC’s report “Access and Access Barriers to Getting Food Stamps,” those barriers include
misperceptions about the impact of SNAP participation on applicants’ immigration status, difficulty
complying with interviewing and documentation requirements, and a lack of language-appropriate
In 2009, only 56 percent of eligible noncitizens received SNAP, compared to 72 percent of all eligible
individuals. Similarly, only 63 percent of eligible citizen children living with noncitizen adults received
SNAP.20 Eligible immigrants include legal permanent residents who have been in the country for at least
five years, and certain other groups of immigrants, such as refugees and asylees.21
Because of the complexity of US immigration policy and its intersection with public benefits, FNS
developed “Guidance on Non-Citizen Eligibility.” Additionally, many outreach initiatives have chosen to
collaborate with legal services organizations to develop their own state-specific detailed guidance and
information concerning immigrants and SNAP. In Pennsylvania, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against
Hunger worked with Community Legal Services to produce a 20-page guidebook covering topics around
immigration status, eligibility, and the benefits process for households with non-citizens. Similarly, non-
profit legal and immigrants rights organizations in California have developed FAQs and fliers discussing
immigrant eligibility as part of outreach projects for CalFresh, California’s state name for SNAP.
FNS, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Guidance on Non-Citizen Eligibility,” (June
Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger and Community Legal Services, “Basic Guide to
Immigrants and Food Stamps in Pennsylvania,” (Updated Fall 2010):
[Please note that the information contained in this guide is specific to Pennsylvania only.]
Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger and Community Legal Services, English and
Spanish language fliers: www.hungercoalition.org/story/immigrant-outreach-project
California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative, “Immigrant Eligibility for Food Stamps in California,”
(January 2006): www.myfoodstamps.org/pdf_files/immigrant_eligible_foodstamps.pdf
Of particular concern to many legal permanent residents is whether enrolling in SNAP will make them a
“public charge,” a classification that could negatively affect their immigration status. Receipt of SNAP
benefits does not make an immigrant a “public charge.”
U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), Public Charge Fact Sheet (November 2009):
Letter from USCIS to community-based organizations emphasizing that immigrants can access
SNAP benefits without begin considered a public charge (March 3, 2004):
FRAC, “Access and Access Barriers to Getting Food Stamps: A Review of the Literature,” (February 2008) pp. 91-94:
FNS, “Trends in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Participation Rates 2002-2009,” (August 2011) p. xiv:
8 U.S.C. 1612(a)(2).
National Immigration Law Center, Public Charge Resources (see national and California guidance
on benefits and ‘public charge’ status, and fliers in 8 different languages):
Households with immigrant members may experience barriers when accessing online applications;
however, this has been recognized by program leadership and corrections are underway to remedy these
barriers. In February 2011, FNS released a tri-agency memoranda regarding SNAP access and online
applications. Many states’ online applications require information on citizenship or immigration status and
Social Security Numbers for every household member, even those not applying for benefits. These
requests are asking for information not needed to establish credibility and in compliance with Title VI of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964. FNS Regional Offices have been asked to work with states to develop and
submit detailed plans for improving on-line applications within 90 days of this memorandum.
FNS, SNAP - Conforming to the Tri-Agency Guidance through Online
Applications, (February 18, 2011): www.fns.usda.gov/snap/rules/Memo/pdfs/Tri-
A study by the Urban Justice Center in New York found that language-appropriate application assistance
can close the participation gap and enable immigrant households to surmount barriers related to
language access, disproportionately complex rules, and stigma and confusion about the program. The
outreach programs described in the study – “The Food Card Access Project” and “Food Force: A Project
of Food Change” – targeted specific communities, pre-screened applicants, “explained the application
process and documentation requirements, and provided a helping hand throughout,” including assistance
Urban Justice Center, “Nourishing New York City: Increasing Food Stamps Access in Immigrant
Communities” (July 2008):
FNS has developed a variety of informational brochures, posters, and fliers regarding SNAP in 37
languages. These materials include: the Questions and Answers About Getting and Using SNAP brochure,
the Public Charge flier, the Immigrant Eligibility Questions and Answers flier, the Documents Needed to
Apply brochure, and the Senior/Disabled Person Eligibility Fact Sheet. An I Speak tool that LEP clients can
indicate their spoken language is also available online.
USDA Translation Materials: www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/translations.htm
A common theme throughout examples of SNAP outreach to immigrants is reaching them through trusted
sources that can provide language-appropriate assistance. The National Council of La Raza works with its
national network of community-based organizations to implement promotores de salud (or community
health worker) programs to reach underserved immigrant populations and connect them with SNAP and
other health and nutrition programs. Promotores are typically trusted figures from the community who
speak the language of the community. They let people know about SNAP and other programs, dispel
myths and answer questions about policy for immigrants, educate the community about language access
rights, and inform policymakers and outside organizations about the barriers to access faced by those
National Council of La Raza, “Immigrant Access to Food Stamps:”
The Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger is partnering with community-based organizations
representing different immigrant communities to provide application assistance tailored to the issues
encountered by immigrants. Based on the 20 page guidebook on immigrants and SNAP described above,
the Coalition has provided in-depth application assistance training to community-based organizations like
the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Coalition, the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation,
and the Philadelphia Arab American CDC. The community-based organizations, in turn, raise awareness
about the program and help their clients throughout the application process. The Coalition also supports
those organizations by sharing data on application outcomes, providing assistance on application barriers
and other problems encountered by immigrant applicants.
In San Francisco, Wu Yee’s Joy Lok Family Resource Center is taking support one step further. Not only
does it help applicants fill out the online application and submit their documents, it also works with the
county CalFresh eligibility office to conduct interviews via webcam from the Joy Lok Family Resource
Center. The webcam interviews allow resource center staff to assist applicants, many of whom have
limited English proficiency.
Emerson National Hunger Fellow Tim Shadix, “Opening New Doors to Ending Hunger,” (February
The Department of Transitional Assistance in Massachusetts partnered with the Office of Refugees and
Immigrants (MORI) and grassroots ethnic community organizations, known as Mutual Assistance
Associations (MAAs) to provide an array of community outreach, education, and direct services to refugee
communities and noncitizens in Massachusetts. Trainings for staff from both MORI and MAAs across the
Commonwealth dispelled myths as well explained noncitizen eligibility and the SNAP application process.
MAAs in Massachusetts: www.masslegalservices.org/system/files/MutualAidAssociations.pdf
Guidelines and Resources for Serving Clients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP)
Limited English Proficiency (LEP) has been identified as a significant barrier to noncitizens as well as
some citizens in accessing SNAP benefits. Executive Order 13166b, Improving Access to Services by
Persons with Limited English Proficiency, describes the obligation of federal agencies to provide
meaningful access to LEP individuals when providing services or programs. The Department of Justice
provided guidance to federal agencies on this obligation.
Executive Order 13166b Summary:
LEP Federal Interagency Website: www.www.fns.usda.gov/CR/LEP_entry.htm
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute resources on language access:
Section 11(e)(1)(B) of the Food Stamp Act requires the state agency to provide appropriate bilingual
personnel and printed material in the administration of the Food Stamp Program.22 The bilingual
regulations require state agency and local offices to provide appropriate translated written materials and
bilingual staff and interpreters for LEP applicants and SNAP recipients. These regulations also require
appropriate language assistance services at fair hearings.
When drafting Title IV of the 2008 Farm Bill, the Senate agricultural committee added Section 4209, A Codification of Access Rules, to address
Almendares v. Palmer, No. 3:00-CV-7524, (N.D. Ohio Dec. 3, 2002).
Regulations also prohibit discrimination "against any applicant or participant in any aspect of program
administration, including, but not limit to, the certification of households, the issuance of coupons, the
conduct of fair hearings, or the conduct of any other program service for reasons of age, race, color, sex,
handicap, religious creed, national origin, or political beliefs.”
Bilingual Regulations: 7 C.F.R. § 272.4(b)(2),(3),(5),(6) & 7 C.F.R. § 273.15 (i)(1)
Interpreters at Fair Hearings: 7 C.F.R. § 272.6 (a)
In response to federal requirements, the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance
collaborated with advocacy groups to develop detailed guidance to help SNAP offices assist LEP clients.
The guidance states that all SNAP offices and call centers are required to advise clients of the right to
professional interpreter services and must provide interpreter services to clients whose primary language
is not English or who use American Sign Language (ASL), regardless of language, national origin or
noncitizen status. Interpreter services must be provided to clients with LEP and ASL users at the first
point of contact.
In addition, LEP/ASL clients must not be turned away or told to return with an interpreter. A client who
presents either in person or by telephone with an adult intending to act as an interpreter must be advised
that a professional interpreter can be provided free of charge. The client may decline the use of
professional interpreter services and choose to have the adult serve as an interpreter. The Massachusetts
SNAP agency developed a Your Right to Interpreter Services brochure, Your Right to An Interpreter
poster, and LEP Services binder. Massachusetts also entered into a contract with Qwest communication
services to provide immediate access to interpreters in all SNAP offices and call centers.
Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Memo, “Department Interpreter Services
Enhancements,” (April 1 2008):
Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Your Right to Interpreter Services
Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Your Right to Interpreter Services Poster:
Language phone lines can be a cost effective way to service clients in minority languages. If a particular
noncitizen population is not large enough to require a bilingual worker, the language line can be utilized
to communicate with SNAP clients. Online interpreters can assist with interviews, fair hearings, translation
of notices or written materials, and answering basic eligibility questions.
Language Line: www.languageline.com/page/industry_government
Akorbi Language Consulting: www.akorbi.com
Outreach to Homeless People
A homeless person for SNAP purposes "lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence and has
a primary night time residency that is:
(a) a shelter (which includes a welfare hotel or congregate shelter)
(b) a half-way house
(c) the home of someone else if you are there less than 90 days
(d) a place where people do not usually sleep such as a doorway, car, a lobby, a bus station, a hallway,
or a subway.”
Source: 7 CFR 271.2 (definition of "homeless individual")
FRAC, “Homeless Persons’ Rights Under SNAP/Food Stamps:” www.frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-
The characteristics of homelessness—transience, instability, and lack of basic resources — mean that
homeless people find it more difficult than other low-income people to apply for, retain, and use the
services provided by federal programs.23 Almost all homeless people are eligible for SNAP, yet only 37
percent receive SNAP.24 Many homeless individuals and families are not aware that SNAP benefits are
available. Common misconceptions include the belief that a fixed address and photo ID are necessary
and that living in a shelter disqualifies you from receiving SNAP. These myths and other barriers to
homeless participation in SNAP are detailed in a USDA document entitled “10 Myths and Facts about
SNAP for Homeless Persons,” and in a report by the United States General Accounting Office,
“Homelessness: Barriers to Mainstream Programs.” Additionally, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia
provides fact sheets and fliers concerning SNAP outreach to people who are homeless.
FNS, “10 Myths and Facts about SNAP for Homeless Persons,”
US General Accounting Office, “Homelessness: Barriers to Mainstream Programs,” (July 2000):
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, “Homeless People Can Get Food Stamps,” (May 2008):
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, “Make Sure the Homeless Receive Their Full Amount
of Food Stamps,” (May 23, 2008):
Buying Hot Meals: Homeless Meal Providers and the Restaurant Program
Acknowledging the barriers that homeless people face in storing and preparing food, Congress amended
the Food Stamp Act in 1990 to allow people who are homeless to redeem benefits for hot meals at
certain authorized establishments.25 In 2010, SNAP benefits used to pay for meals at the 185 authorized
homeless meal providers and the 1,248 authorized private restaurants constituted just 0.04%, or
$20,840,714 of total SNAP redemptions.26 The National Coalition for the Homeless and The National Law
Center on Homelessness & Poverty released a report on food access for homeless people and explains
General Accounting Office, “Homelessness: Barriers to Using Mainstream Programs” (2000), www.gao.gov/new.items/rc00184.pdf
FNS, Benefit Redemption Division, “Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2010” (May 2011), www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/pdfs/2010-annual-report.pdf
that, “while most states do not take advantage of the EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) Restaurant Meals
Program, the program has expanded in the several states that do.”
National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, “A
Place at the Table: Prohibitions on Sharing Food with People Experiencing Homelessness,” (July
FNS, “Putting Healthy Food Within Reach” (2008 Annual Report):
Los Angeles County Government, Restaurant Meals Program:
Michigan Department of Human Services, EBT Restaurant Program:
Arizona Department of Economic Security, Arizona Restaurants Participating in Restaurant Meals
Two new short videos explain the purpose of the program and features elected officials, business
representatives, and anti-hunger and homelessness advocates in support.
The SNAP Restaurant Meals Program: www.snaprmp.org
Advocates in Rhode Island have compiled two presentations showing the obstacles faced by homeless
people and how the Restaurant Meals Program is especially suited to meet this population’s unique
Exploring Health Through the Lends of Homelessness:
The Food Access Project: http://frac.org/food_access_project.pptx
The process for a restaurant to accept SNAP is fairly straightforward. In Los Angeles, after submitting a
Restaurant Owner Information Form to the Los Angeles County government, restaurant owners will
receive a Memorandum of Understanding and a Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) application for meal
services. The certification process to accept SNAP takes 60 days. The state SNAP agency (or another
appropriate state or local governmental agency identified by the state SNAP agency) approves
restaurants wanting to participate in SNAP. The restaurant then applies to FNS to become authorized to
accept SNAP. Other states, such as Michigan, request that interested restaurants contact their local FNS
field office directly.
Los Angeles County Government, “Restaurant Owner Information Form,”
Los Angeles County Government, “Memorandum of Understanding,”
Michigan Department of Human Services, “Interested Retailer,” www.michigan.gov/dhs/0,1607,7-
FNS, “Application for Meal Services,” www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/pdfs/FNS-252-2.pdf
In Portland, Oregon, Sisters of the Road Café has been accepting SNAP since 1987 when the group
helped pass legislation that allows the homeless to use SNAP to buy prepared meals at non-profit cafés.
Sisters of the Road Café was the first café in the country to implement the SNAP policy for the homeless.
Meals cost $1.25 and are served between 10AM and 3PM Monday through Friday. From 2009 through
2010, Sisters of the Road Café served 46,560 meals.
Sisters of the Road Café: www.sistersoftheroad.org/programs/cafe
In addition to restaurants and cafés, “homeless meal providers” may accept SNAP. If the site receives
donated food items from the USDA, it must also purchase and serve other food in order for the site to
receive SNAP benefits. A “homeless meal provider” is NOT eligible to accept SNAP if the food that they
serve is fully donated.27
Service providers and restaurants that serve hot meals to the homeless are a critical part of SNAP support
to this population. Allowing homeless SNAP participants to use their benefits at restaurants is important
because no SNAP recipient can use their benefits to purchase hot, prepared foods at grocery stores.
Without shelter and a space to store, prepare, and cook food, people who are homeless rely on these
providers and restaurants that accept SNAP for their nutrition needs.
Additional information on SNAP Restaurant Meals Program is available in the below presentation,
including research by former FRAC Congressional Hunger Fellow Daniel Burke.
FRAC, A Place at the Table Webinar, (December 16. 2010):
Overcoming Barriers to SNAP
The high rate of mental illness among the homeless population is an enormous barrier to SNAP
participation. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 20-25
percent of the homeless population in the United States lives with severe mental illness.28 Comparatively,
only six percent of the American population at large has a severe mental illness.29
Serious mental illnesses disrupt people’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life. Often times,
mental illnesses prevent people from forming and maintaining relationships or cause some to misinterpret
others’ guidance and act irrationally. Contrary to popular belief, most homeless people with severe
mental illness are willing to accept treatment and services. Given the high prevalence of mental illness
among the homeless, outreach programs are more successful when workers establish a trusting
relationship through continued contact with homeless individuals.30
Thresholds, a mental health outreach organization in Chicago, builds relationships with homeless
individuals through the continued contact method. The Thresholds Mobile Assessment Unit (TMAU)
provides assertive outreach, psychiatric care, and resource referrals to homeless people with severe
mental illness. TMAU employs the skills of licensed clinical social workers on the streets, in trains, in
homeless shelters, or wherever homeless people can be found. The Thresholds model can be effective in
connecting the homeless with SNAP.
Thresholds, Threshold Mobile Assessment Unit: www.thresholds.org/find-services/housing-and-
FNS, “The Food Stamp Program: A Compilation of Regulations Pertaining to Retail Food Stores, Wholesale Food Concerns and Financial Institutions,
National Coalition for the Homeless, “Mental Illness and the Homeless” (July 2009): www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/Mental_Illness.pdf
Homebase, California’s public policy law firm on homelessness, published a report for FNS and HUD
highlighting best practices for increasing the homeless populations’ participation in what is now named
CalFresh, formerly the Food Stamp Program. Among these best practices is San Francisco’s one-day
CalFresh application processing. Six eligibility workers from the San Francisco county office travel to the
city’s largest soup kitchen and complete screenings and applications with clients. Eligibility works bring
laptops along with an EBT card activation and Personal Identification Number (PIN) machine so
applicants can receive and activate their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that same day. Most
clients are not required to visit a county office.
Homebase, Best Practices for Food Stamp Outreach to the Homeless:
Enrolling Needy Students
Recently, there has been increasing understanding that many struggling college students qualify for and
need SNAP assistance. Rising education costs coupled with the sluggish economy mean that more college
students and families are struggling financially. Several states have begun to reach out to college
students who meet one of the exceptions to the general proposition that students do not qualify for
The Daily Caller, “Universities Encourage Students to Enroll in Food Stamp Program,” (March 27,
University and community college students between the ages of 18 and 49 can qualify for SNAP if they,
one, meet all the regular eligibility requirements, and, two, also meet one of the following “student
Receive federal or state work-study money (a form of financial aid);
Work for pay for 20 hours or more per week;
Have a child under the age of 12 in the household that needs care;
Is enrolled in a SNAP Employment &Training program, Workforce Investment Act, or other
federally authorized job training program; or
Is enrolled in a state or local government program that the state determines will lead to
Source: 7 U.S.C. §2015(e) and 7 C.F.R. §273.5
The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) has pioneered some exciting policy work and outreach to
needy community college students. MLRI recognized that SNAP benefits can be a significant support to
low-income students as they pursue degrees that can help them find a way out of hardship. For many
low-income students, SNAP and other financial supports can mean the difference between staying in
school and dropping out.
After raising awareness about students’ eligibility and need for SNAP through an article in the Boston
Globe, MLRI initially partnered with a range of organizations that work with low-income students applying
for college. MLRI trained staff at ACCESS Boston, community action programs, and student organizations
at public colleges on SNAP eligibility and outreach so that they could deliver the message directly to the
students they serve. MLRI also contacted financial aid offices at community colleges around the state to
encourage them to place bulletins and brochures in their offices.
During their 2008 and 2009 outreach and training efforts, MLRI found a growing number of low income
college students simply did not meet the SNAP student exemptions primarily due to lack of available
work-study slots (many colleges run out of the block granted work study despite student need) and/or
lack of any part-time work that would otherwise qualify the student for SNAP. In 2009 MLRI negotiated
additional policy changes with their state agency to allow low-income community college students
enrolled in career and technical education programs (as defined under the federal Perkins Act) to qualify
for SNAP if otherwise eligible. MLRI convinced the state agency that the federal statute gives states the
authority to determine which government-based programs meet similar employment focused-criteria of
the SNAP Employment & Training program and that the Perkins Act clearly defined the courses of study
that are considered career and technical education focused. MLRI also found that many of these
community college students live at home with family members who get SNAP but the student was
excluded from the household benefit, and/or found many older youth transitioning out of foster care who
were attending community colleges but without nutrition supports. In addition to redoubling their
outreach and training efforts, MLRI co-authored the Crittenton Women’s Union guide for low-income
adult students offering information on a number of support programs, including this important policy
change for community college students.
Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Field Operations Memo, “SNAP Eligibility
for Certain Community College Students,” (June 1, 2010):
Boston Globe, “Food Stamps Offer Lifeline: Aid May Keep Some in College,” (December 22,
MLRI student eligibility flier:
MLRI student checklist:
MLRI cover letter to financial aid offices:
Crittenton Women’s Union, “Beyond Financial Aid” brochure:
ACCESS Boston: www.accessboston.org
In upstate New York, local Nutrition Outreach and Education Program coordinator Beverly Hickman
reached out to the Hudson Valley Community College Student Senate to begin an outreach project for
community college students. The Student Senate enthusiastically embraced the idea. Beyond giving her
an office for application assistance appointments in the student activity office, students created fliers,
worked with the administration to insert Food Stamp information into loan checks, and advertised the
program in the student newspaper. Advocates in Oregon and Montana have also targeted student
newspapers as a way to get out the word about SNAP.
Nutrition Outreach and Education Project: www.nutritionconsortium.org/NOEP.htm
Oregon Hunger Task Force intern and Portland State University (PSU) student Jennifer Hanson has
spread the word about SNAP throughout her campus. In addition to posting fliers in departments and on
public bulletin boards, Jennifer sent a letter directly to students through the PSU list-serv, and has made
presentations about the program and student eligibility to groups like the Women’s Resource Center and
the Returning Women’s Group. She was interviewed for an article in the PSU’s student newspaper, the
“Daily Vanguard” and helped get information about SNAP posted on the university’s “Healthy Campus”
Oregon Hunger Task Force, SNAP for Students: www.oregonhunger.org/snap-for-students
PSU Healthy Campus, “Nutrition, It’s a SNAP!”: www.pdx.edu/healthycampus/nutrition-its-snap
Oregon Hunger Task Force flier, Food Stamps Can Help Students Make Ends Meet
As part of any student outreach effort, be sure to inform students that they can defer their federal loans
as long as they are on SNAP.
Federal Student Aid Deferment Requirements:
Economic Hardship Deferment Request Form: www.studentloan.org/Docs/federal-
Outreach at Recertification
Many households have SNAP benefits terminated due to barriers related to the recertification process.
Even though they may remain financially eligible, household’s cases are closed when they fail to submit
forms and verifications on time or attend an interview. Case closings place an added burden on eligibility
offices when families return weeks or months later as new applicants – a cycle known as “churning.” The
loss of SNAP can be a serious hardship on families; research shows that households face increased food
insecurity and very low food security after they leave the program. Now more than ever, with millions of
families confronting the recertification process for the first time, these barriers can cause problems for
families and offices alike.
Research on barriers at recertification and their consequences for families:
Urban Justice Center, “Keeping Food on the Table: Challenges to Food Stamp Retention in New
York City,” (September 2007): www.urbanjustice.org/pdf/projects/KeepingFoodOnTheTable.pdf
(Study finds that less than 20 percent of cases closed at recertification were identified as
FNS, “Some Households Leaving SNAP Still Face Food Shortfalls” (June 2009):
Abt Associates, Inc. “Food Stamp Program Access Study: Final Report,” (November 2004):
www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EFAN03013/EFAN03013-3/, p. 6-6. (Data show that two thirds of
households who did not complete the recertification process reported food insecurity, and a
quarter experienced the severest form of food insecurity documented by USDA)
Outreach regarding the recertification process can help families overcome retention barriers. In a 2006
memo, FNS clarified that the federal outreach 50-50 reimbursement can cover outreach around
recertification. Recertification assistance can be a natural role for outreach workers who supply
FNS, Memoranda regarding use of 50-50 reimbursement for outreach activities at recertification
(June 19, 2006): www.fns.usda.gov/snap/rules/Memo/2006/061906.pdf
As with application assistance, helping at recertification does not place any liability on the outreach
agency. The household is signing the application or recertification form and attesting to the truthfulness
of information provided.
State outreach plans can be amended during the year, including to add recertification assistance by
outreach partners. Organizations conducting SNAP outreach should work with state agencies to include
outreach around recertification in the state outreach plan to facilitate federal reimbursement for those
activities. California recently included recertification assistance as a reimbursable activity under its state
outreach plan. Model language about recertification assistance is now included in the outreach plan
templates posted by the California Department of Public Health.
California Department of Public Health, Outreach plan templates (see for example Attachment
14b and Attachment 15): www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/cpns/Pages/RequestforApplicationAIP-
Outreach agencies report that many clients return for help when the recertification package is received or
once benefits stop. Some states already provide information about recertification responsibilities as part
of SNAP information sessions. In Massachusetts, state outreach staff identified key steps in the
recertification process as part of all SNAP trainings to both partner agencies and clients. Outreach
workers at the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger find that clients need questions answered
and problems around recertification resolved. Outreach workers in Philadelphia help clients fill out the
online recertification application and try to trouble shoot their experience.
Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger’s SNAP Campaign: www.hungercoalition.org/snap-
Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, “SNAP 101” (Recertification Training
Outreach coordinators with the Nutrition Education Outreach Project in New York State receive many
requests for recertification assistance from clients they helped with the initial Food Stamp application.
Due to funding parameters, NOEP coordinators can only provide direct assistance on a limited basis, but
they have found other ways to ensure Food Stamp recipients get the recertification help they need.
During initial outreach to potential Food Stamp applicants, NOEP coordinators educate clients about the
recertification process. Many NOEP coordinators have also built collaborations with other community
organizations, educating them about Food Stamp recertification requirements, so that the organizations
can in turn help their clients with recertification.
Nutrition Consortium of New York State, Nutrition Outreach and Education Project:
The San Antonio Food Bank provides targeted recertification assistance to refugee SNAP recipients.
Working with caseworkers from Catholic Charities and other organizations providing refugee assistance,
food bank outreach workers schedule periodic recertification sessions for groups of refugees.
Caseworkers arrange for translation and often host the meeting, and the outreach workers explain the
process and help individual applicants fill out the required forms.
San Antonio Food Bank: www.safoodbank.org/index.php/programs/client-services/snap-formerly-
Some provider agencies keep in contact with families after they have been enrolled in SNAP. During
follow-up calls with newly-approved clients, providers record the household certification timeframes. Once
the recertification deadline approaches, providers share reminders and offer recertification assistance.
Direct follow-up can be critical to remind the household of its responsibilities for maintaining benefits.
Examples from health programs point to the potential for such data-driven strategies to enable
recertification outreach. In New Mexico, the Health Insurance Benefits Assistance Corps (HIBAC)
partnered with the Medicaid agency to identify participants in the Medicare Savings Program who were
due for recertification. HIBAC counselors contacted those program recipients to offer reminders and
assistance in their native languages, including Spanish and a number of Native American languages.
National Council on Aging, “Using Data-Driven Strategies to Enhance Benefits Outreach,
Enrollment, and Retention Activities,” November 2009 (see section on “Using program enrollment
data to help consumers retain benefits): www.centerforbenefits.org/Data-
Community organizations seeking to play a similar role may be able to coordinate with SNAP offices to
identify households that are due for recertification. The household must agree to the sharing of
confidential information with the outreach agency. Both the outreach plan and contracts with provider
agencies can specify recertification related activities such as reminder phone calls, and recertification
information sessions, as well as assistance with form completion, verification gathering, and interview
An effective recertification model can include prefilled recertification forms. Since 2005, prefilled
recertification forms have been sent to Massachusetts SNAP households that are under simplified
reporting households. Information already recorded about the household is provided on the form. The
household must review the form and notify the agency of any changes. Some items do not have to be
verified again. For other items such as wages, updated income amounts must be submitted. The prefilled
form has streamlined the process for both clients and workers with no impact on error rate. As a result,
the SNAP agency began sending prefilled forms to other households.
Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance Field Operations Memo on Pre-Filled SNAP
Recertification Forms: www.frac.org/snapguide_2011/recert_ma_field_op_memo.pdf
Sample Pre-Filled Form: www.frac.org/snapguide_2011/recert_ma_sample_form.pdf
States are reporting that the newly jobless and those who have never applied for public benefits before
are turning to the Internet for information about SNAP and are utilizing web applications to begin the
process. Not wishing to go to a local SNAP office to enroll, prospective clients are choosing the web-
based application, a phone interview, and mailing or faxing in needed verifications. This technology eases
time and travel burdens on already struggling populations.
This new SNAP population also will be experiencing the recertification process for the first time, making
outreach and access policies even more important to retaining eligible households. Electronic tools may
be attractive to these households. States may consider investing in technology changes to facilitate
recertification applications, like online recertification tools, automated voice response systems, and online
account pages. These types of systems will allow the newly jobless and working individuals to access
general benefit information without having to talk to a busy caseworker or visit a local SNAP office.
Several states have already developed online recertification and client case monitoring tools. These
include New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida. New York offers a telefile recertification to Food
Stamp households that are not receiving Temporary Assistance (cash) benefits. This means that many
clients can renew benefits without coming into the office for an interview. In addition, clients can check
myBenefitsNY tool for case information.
New York State, One Call Does It All Brochure: www.otda.state.ny.us/main/publications/4918.pdf
New York State, Self Service My Benefits Page: www.mybenefits.ny.gov
Households in Pennsylvania can renew SNAP benefits online using the COMPASS tool. SNAP households
can also check the status of their ongoing case or a pending application by accessing their My COMPASS
Pennsylvania Online Services COMPASS: www.humanservices.state.pa.us/compass/CMHOM.aspx
Both Florida and Wisconsin have developed online recertification and case monitoring tools for
households receiving Food Assistance and Food Share benefits, Florida’s and Wisconsin’s state names for
Reaching Rural Populations
Despite living in farming communities, many rural households experience food insecurity. For 2010, of
the 20.1 million households living outside metropolitan areas, 14.7 percent were food insecure and 1.1
million or 5.4 percent experienced very low food insecurity.31 Compounding this need are the barriers to
receiving public benefits that many rural households face: isolation, lack of transportation, and fear of
stigma. However, many organizations have developed successful outreach strategies to reach rural
FRAC, “Federal Nutrition Programs: Vital for the (Economic) Health of Rural America:”
Rural SNAP Facts:
Rural households are most likely to rely on SNAP, regardless of region, with 13.2 percent of rural
households receiving benefits in 2009 compared with 12.7 percent in central cities and 7.7 percent in
Among all rural areas, SNAP use is highest in the south, with 15.8 percent of households reporting
benefit receipt. This high rate of assistance mirrors 2009 trends in child poverty; the rural south also
has the highest rate of child and young child poverty, with one-third of children under age 6 living
below the poverty line.
Despite higher use in rural areas, fewer than half of rural households (46.5 percent) with incomes
below the poverty line are enrolled in SNAP. Use is even lower in poor central city and suburban
households (42.4 percent and 37.8 percent, respectively).32
The South Plains Food Bank in Texas has a SNAP outreach program covering 21 rural counties around
Lubbock, Texas. Outreach worker Denise Rudd gets a lift from the Food Bank’s mobile pantry to travel to
each of these counties. Her visit is advertised in advance by local host organizations, and she meets with
interested families one-one-one to provide application assistance. She leaves each family with a list of
documents they need to send in, and she turns in the applications and arranges the phone interviews to
save clients the cost and trouble of travel. As a former eligibility worker, Denise has a strong working
relationship with the SNAP office. With recent office closures and a fast-expanding caseload, Texas offices
are overwhelmed and grateful for the help. Often, they will refer a client to her if they need help filling
out the application, finding the documents, or understanding the process. “Whenever they get one of my
applications, it’s an easy one for them to process,” she says.
South Plains Food Bank, information on SNAP assistance:
The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services reaches out to rural populations with its
Mobile Engagement Vehicle (MEV) and the Rural Outreach Services Enterprise (ROSE) program. This
program provides mental health, alcohol and other drug, social services, and public health mobile
outreach services to outlying communities. MEV ROSE makes regular monthly visits to resource centers
across the county and generally includes an eligibility worker so interested visitors can get on-site
assistance with applications for CalFresh and MediCal (California’s names for SNAP and Medicaid,
respectively). Capitalizing on outreach resources and drawing more visitors to the site, MEV ROSE
includes a clinician completing mental health assessments and a food distribution program that includes
produce from local farmers.
USDA, ERS, “Household Food Security in the United States, 2010,” (September: 2010): www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR125/ERR125.pdf
Carsey Institute, “More Than One in Ten American Households Relies on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits,” (Revised February
Two Rivers Tribune, “Rural Outreach Program Provides Food, Social Services, and Mental Health
Assessments,” (November 9, 2010): www.tworiverstribune.com/2010/11/rural-outreach-
The Montana Food Bank Network, which covers the entire state, has found that the best way to address
the geographical barriers in rural SNAP outreach is to directly involve local service providers and
community members. The food bank network holds community meetings with these stakeholders to
understand the local needs, the barriers to SNAP most relevant to that community, and what strategies
and messages may be successful there. Based on this input, outreach staff work with a local Outreach
Coordinator to tailor outreach efforts to the area. A critical piece of developing local outreach
infrastructure are training sessions for service providers like WIC offices, Head Start, health clinics, food
pantries, and other organizations, enabling those offices to offer information about SNAP to their clients
and assist them with the application process.
Montana Food Bank Network, SNAP outreach information: www.mfbn.org/pub/snap
Montana Food Bank Network, SNAP outreach materials:
In Calaveras County, California, a rural county 120 miles east of San Francisco Bay, CalFresh outreach is
difficult because towns are isolated and spread apart. CalFresh is California’s state name for SNAP. To
effectively serve their rural population, the Calaveras Works and Human Services Agency has developed
an outstationing program where eligibility workers are placed in community-based organizations and
mobile food pantries to conduct outreach. Clients can complete the entire CalFresh application process
with their local outstationed worker with no need to travel to the main agency office in San Andreas. The
Resource Connection, a community-based organization that focuses on CalFresh outreach through the
San Andreas Food Bank, provides outreach materials for Calaveras County, including an out-of-office
application flow chart.
California Association of Food Banks Report, Calaveras County, pp.13-15 (February 2010):
Mary Ellen Abbott of the Illinois Hunger Coalition is a one person SNAP outreach unit. A former
caseworker, she is dedicated to finding new ways to reach households in the rural parts of her state. To
market the program she has partnered with Sherriff’s Departments and the State Police. Officers
distribute SNAP information to households. Another effective strategy for reaching households in isolated
areas is to attend community events. Mary Ellen offers information and application assistance to
interested households. More recently, she has begun attending family court days to spread the word
about SNAP and offer application assistance.
Illinois Hunger Coalition: www.ilhunger.org
As part of the Target Hunger Northern Berkshire Initiative, the Western Massachusetts Food Bank
identified households living in seven hill towns along the Mowhawk Trail that struggle with food
insecurity. Through partnerships with community organizations and residents, issues have been raised,
recommendations identified, and solutions implemented. In the past several years, Target Hunger has
created a resource brochure for area residents, started community gardens, made SNAP outreach a
priority, worked to increase summer feeding programs, and raised awareness about local farms. Summit
meetings are held bi-annually to share progress and define new areas of need. Workgroups are formed
which meet regularly to target hunger issues.
Target Hunger Northern Berkshire Initiative, “Food Security in the Northern Berkshires” (May
Target Hunger Northern Berkshire Initiative brochure, North Berkshire County Community Food
Resource Guide: www.foodbankwma.org/wp-content/uploads/THNBresource09.pdf
Target Hunger Northern Berkshire Initiative “Know Your Farmer” event promotion:
The MANNA Food Bank in Asheville, North Carolina has reached rural populations through a partnership
with the county Food and Nutrition Services office. Food and Nutrition Services is North Carolina’s state
name for SNAP. An outreach worker was hired with 50 percent food bank funding and 50 percent funding
from McDowell County. A trusted resident of the county, Andy Webb, had many inroads with local
communities. He attended events, gave information sessions, assisted with the application process and
served as a liaison between clients and the local county office. Prior to hiring a dedicated outreach
worker, McDowell County’s participation rate was 50 percent. As of December 2009, the Food and
Nutrition Services participation had increased to 94 percent.
Another method employed by the Manna Food Bank is to provide Food and Nutrition Services fliers in all
church bulletins throughout the county. The flyer includes the income guidelines so households can
determine if they may be eligible for benefits. Recently, the food bank has been educating grocers on the
new face of recipients and the economic impact program participation can have on the state and local
Press release for an outreach event co-sponsored by Manna Food Bank and McDowell County:
North Carolina, Food and Nutrition Services, heating costs flier:
North Carolina, Food and Nutrition Services, medical costs flier:
Grocers and Outreach
There has been growing interest from food retailers to work with the anti-hunger community to increase
participation in federal nutrition programs. National and regional food retail chains have partnered with
nonprofit and government agencies to conduct outreach for SNAP. Most successful retailer-based
outreach projects have two common ingredients: one, anti-hunger groups have explained to retailers the
“business case” for SNAP and, two, the groups have appealed to the retailer’s interest in being a good
Walmart’s $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment to help end hunger shows the business community’s
potential for investment. Like many grocers, Walmart is also offering resources unique to its industry. The
company is providing logistics expertise to local food banks and inviting government, food manufacturers
and other corporations to join them in fight against hunger.
Walmart, “Walmart Commits $2 Billion to Help End Hunger in the U.S.,” (May 12, 2010):
The current economic climate may provide an opportunity to approach retailers about a SNAP
partnership. Many retailers are struggling to retain shoppers and increase their customer base. Making
stores more accessible to SNAP clients is attractive to many food retailers. Customers that receive SNAP
information from a particular retailer may also choose that retailer for their present and future shopping
FNS provides guidelines for food retailers wishing to enhance SNAP outreach efforts. These
recommendations include displaying SNAP promotional materials, partnering with local anti-hunger
groups to host SNAP prescreening events, and hosting food tasting or cooking demonstrations to
promote healthy eating.
FNS, “10 Food Stamp Program Outreach Ideas for Retailers:”
The FNS Golden Grocer Awards highlight the important role that retailers play in SNAP. The Golden
Grocer Award recognizes retailers committed to the FNS vision of ending hunger and improving nutrition.
HEB (Here Everything’s Better), a large grocer in San Antonio Texas, received a Golden Grocer Award in
2007 for providing nutrition education and Food Stamp information to its customers. HEB collaborated
with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to select HEB stores to serve as outreach posts.
Food bank workers go to selected HEB stores in San Antonio to enroll eligible customers in SNAP and to
talk about healthy eating. HEB has also helped food bank workers complete approximately 1,500
applications a month for people seeking various types of federal assistance, primarily SNAP.
FNS, Golden Grocer Award Winners 2007:
The 2010 Golden Grocer Award went to five Ohio grocery stores that partnered with the Ohio District 5
Area Agency on Aging, Inc. (AAA) to conduct Food Assistance outreach and application assistance to
seniors. Food Assistance is Ohio’s state name for SNAP. Outreach workers are stationed at grocery stores
to talk with potential applicants about Food Assistance, to conduct confidential prescreening using the
USDA’s tool, and to assist with completing applications. The AAA then sends applications to the local
eligibility office to be processed. These outreach events take place several days per month at local
markets. Events also target days when certain sales attract higher number of seniors, such as Senior
Discount Day and times when bananas are on sale. This partnership and the receipt of the Golden Grocer
award give local advocates and outreach groups another opportunity to attract the attention of earned
media, advertising their efforts to potential applicants for no cost.
Mansfield News Journal, ”Local grocers win USDA award,” (September 15, 2011):
At the 2011 FNS SNAP Outreach Coalition meeting, Teresa Cook, Community Programs Manager for the
AAA, provided an update on this Ohio project. She explained that to set a baseline for the outreach work,
the AAA used the FNS Program Access Index to learn that 1,932 seniors over the age of 60 where likely
eligible. However, local figures show that in 2008 only 1,169 were enrolled, leaving 763 individuals likely
eligible, but unenrolled.
Ms. Cook also shared informational cards given to seniors that will need to visit their local office. These
cards include the name of the staff that completed the prescreener, a note on the application process
and necessary verifications, and simple instructions to the county office. To address transportation needs
not covered by the FNS grant, the AAA works with Richland County Senior Services.
As part of her presentation, Ms. Cook listed what could be purchased with $16, the minimum benefit, at
one of the participating stores, including: a loaf of wheat bread, a dozen eggs, bananas, fresh carrots,
fresh green beans, a 12 pack of cheese, tuna, a five pound bag of potatoes, a quart of milk, and ice
Finally, to illustrate the type of senior served by the outreach program, Ms. Cook shared the story of an
84 year old woman, with diabetes, who had been living on a $20 monthly food budget. With her
neighbors driving her to the store, she would purchase ramen noodles, pinto beans, coleslaw, and buns.
She now receives SNAP to supplement her food costs.
Area Agency on Aging, Inc., Outreach Dates at Grocers: www.aaa5ohio.org/snap.asp
The Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging, Inc., PowerPoint presentation:
FNS, SNAP Grantee: www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/grants/2009/2009-summary.htm
FNS, “Calculating the SNAP Program Access Index: A Step-by-Step Guide,” (October 2010):
In Essex County, New Jersey, ShopRite partnered with the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, the County
Welfare Directors Association of New Jersey and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey to conduct
Food Stamp outreach using the Essex County Mobile Citizens Office Van. Acquired in 2006 by the State of
New Jersey with a federal grant and staffed by Food Stamp eligibility workers, the van travels to ShopRite
locations in low-income communities to promote Food Stamps and offer application assistance and
processing to shoppers.
Essex County Mobile Citizens Office Van: www.essex-
Old Town Christian Ministries (OTCM), an outreach contractor for the Basic Food Program, Washington’s
state name for SNAP, found that printing program advertisements on grocery receipts generated a
significant response. Nearly 50 percent of Basic Food inquiry calls received by OTCM came from people
who saw the advertisement on receipts from six Albertson’s/Food Pavilion stores in the region.
FNS, Promising Practices: www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/promising/washington.htm
The Virginia Cooperative Extension partnered with Walmart stores in central Virginia to provide nutrition
education through the Smart Choices program. After surveying stores across the state, Extension
determined that Walmart stores in central Virginia had the highest rates of SNAP redemption. Extension
reached out to these Walmart stores by providing trained Smart Choices program assistants to provide
nutrition information to Walmart customers. Program assistants set up tables in the stores to hand out
information to customers and engage in conversations about healthy eating.
SNAP Outreach at Walmart: www.ext.vt.edu/news/solutions/solutions2009/Articles/walmart.html
The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank Mobile Pantry hosted a food distribution and SNAP outreach event at
the Walmart parking lot in Elizabethville. Participants were given a free bag of food and offered
assistance in determining eligibility for SNAP.
SNAP Outreach at Walmart: www.pahunger.org/html/events/events_FoodStampOutreach.html
Food warehouses like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s now accept SNAP. Families on limited-income can
save money by buying food in bulk at food warehouses. The yearly membership rate for these food
warehouses, about $50, is not waived for SNAP customers and cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits.
However, Costco has found that the annual membership fee has not been a deterrent for SNAP
recipients. Additionally, Rite Aid, one of the country’s leading drugstore chains, began accepting SNAP
nationwide. Brian Fiala, Rite Aid Executive Vice President of Store Operations observes, "With nearly
4,800 Rite Aid stores nationwide offering assorted groceries, accepting EBT cards is just another
convenience we can offer to our customers and help make their lives a little easier."
MSNBC, “Costco to accept food stamps nationwide:”
Rite Aid, “Rite Aid Now Accepts Food Stamps” (March 18, 2010):
The Network for a Healthy California – Sierra Cascade Region Retail Program and FoodMaxx have hosted
a Free Fruit and Veggie Fest as “part of a statewide effort to empower families to make healthy, active
living a priority.” In addition to food stamp signup and information, the festivities included: celebrity chefs
preparing nutritious food, the local hospital offering blood pressure screenings, a live radio broadcast
promoting the event, and attendees enjoying photos with Fruit and Veggie Friends and free giveaways.
For more information on the organizations hosting the event, visit www.cachampionsforchange.net or
Oroville Mercury-Register, “What's Happening in Oroville” (April 30, 2011):
For groups seeking to start their own grocery store outreach projects, Hunger Free Colorado’s (HFC)
approach offers some simple best practices. One, HFC manages a spreadsheet to track outreach activities
in order to develop a schedule that maximizes resources. Initially, HFC Food Assistance Navigators have
worked evenings, weekdays, and weekends to see which timeframe attracts the most applicants. Two,
HFC offers information on any of the federal nutrition programs that might fit the applicant’s needs and
specifically tailors the approach to each client. Three, HFC actively works to eliminate any access barriers
that the applicant may face – initially by reaching potential applicants outside the county office. Outreach
staff educate the applicant about program requirements, offer application assistance, and make copies of
any needed verifications and organize it all with the FNS “white envelope.” All applicants are connected to
HFC’s Hunger Free Hotline in case any assistance is needed in the future. Hotline staff also refer callers to
outreach sites if needed. Finally, HFC has developed its own outreach model that best meets local needs
and applies it to both grocery store and food pantry outreach.
Hunger Free Colorado, Need Food Assistance? flier: http://frac.org/pdf/hfhotlineflyer_V1CS4.pdf
FNS, “Documents Needed for SNAP Application” white envelope: http://snap.ntis.gov/
Strategies for Emergency Food Providers
Food pantries and food banks are natural settings for SNAP outreach, particularly given their direct
contact with food insecure families and their presence in local communities. Emergency food providers
have developed a wide range of successful outreach strategies to various populations, as you can see
from examples featured throughout this toolkit.
Many food banks and food pantries already provide SNAP application assistance to their clients. The Food
Bank of South Eastern Virginia has recently started asking people at commodity drop sites if they are
enrolled in SNAP, and if they are not enrolled, whether they are interested in more information. On
Fridays, food bank workers set aside a block of hours devoted to calling those who expressed interest in
the program. Often food bank workers are able to fill out an online application for the client while on the
Food Bank of Southeastern Virginia: www.foodbankonline.org
Outreach workers at the Alameda County Community Food Bank have simplified the eligibility process for
clients by filling out applications for them with the electronic Food Stamp Application and Screening Tool
(FAST). For example, when someone calls the food bank’s “food helpline,” they are asked if they’re
interested in SNAP/Food Stamps or CalFresh, California’s new state name for the program. Then they are
transferred to an outreach worker who can prescreen them for eligibility and fill out an application while
the person is on the phone. A strong working relationship with the county eligibility office has enabled the
food bank to identify ways to improve the quality of the applications submitted, and now 79 percent of
the applicants its staff and volunteers assist ultimately enroll in the program.
Alameda County Community Food Bank: www.accfb.org
Annie E. Casey Foundation, “Oakland Food Stamp Program Uses Technology to Strengthen
The San Antonio Food Bank also holds mass distribution events, called “Food Fairs,” distributing 60
pounds of food for qualified families out of the back of an 18-wheeler. Partner organizations distribute
“vouchers” advertising the fair. The vouchers let families know that SNAP outreach workers will be there
and tell them what documents they should bring. While families wait to receive their 60 pounds of food,
outreach workers go car to car, prescreening families for SNAP and providing immediate application
assistance. This is just one of the food bank’s many SNAP outreach initiatives. Additionally, the San
Antonio Food Bank participates in a variety of fairs and large events and provide in-depth application
assistance to clients referred to them by schools, WIC clinics, the city’s senior program, and many other
San Antonio Food Bank Food Fairs: www.safoodbank.org/index.php/programs/distribution-
The New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH) is a citywide partner in three benefits access
projects that connect eligible New Yorkers to SNAP/Food Stamps. As an organization that works to unify
New York’s emergency food providers, NYCCAH’s Benefits Access program helps pantries and kitchens
enable their clients to obtain benefits through programs like SNAP.
The Paperless Office System Project “allows eligible New Yorkers to apply, with assistance, for food
stamps online at food pantries and soup kitchens in each of the five boroughs. Approximately 85 percent
of clients applying at NYCCAH host sites receive benefits.” Furthermore, most clients served by this
project qualify for a waiver that eliminates the need for an in-person interview at SNAP/Food Stamp
Drawing upon the successes of “place-based” outreach, NYCCAH’s work with the Food Card Access
Project identifies locations where community-based groups can conduct pre-screenings and assist eligible
individuals submit an application. “NYCCAH has helped to coordinate food stamps pre-screening activities
at over 600 locations, including hospitals, health clinics, schools, public libraries, supermarkets, senior
centers and banks, as well as at soup kitchens and food pantries.”
NYCCAH also participates in the SNAP Recertification Improvement Program (SNAP-RIP) which allows
current SNAP/Food Stamps recipients to make an appointment with an approved community-based
organization for assistance with the recertification process. At these appointments, clients complete the
recertification application by swiping their EBT card and providing required documents. Staff at
participating organizations may also be selected as a client’s authorized representative, allowing the staff
member to complete the required phone interview on the client’s behalf which eliminates another step for
clients and expedites the recertification process.
NYCCAH, Benefits Access, www.nyccah.org/our-programs/benefits-outreach
Food banks are also key partners in innovative demonstration projects designed to expand access to
SNAP by involving community partners more directly in the eligibility process.
FNS has authorized “community partner interviewer” demonstration projects, where food banks and other
approved community groups conduct the eligibility interview before sending the completed application to
the SNAP office.
As a “Trusted Partner” of the Nevada Division of Welfare and Social Services, the Food Bank of
Northern Nevada is breaking down barriers by taking applications and conducting interviews at
food pantries, homeless shelters, and even in clients’ homes.
The Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is conducting Food Assistance eligibility
interviews in three Central Florida counties in addition to providing prescreening and application
assistance to clients. Food Assistance is Florida’s state name for SNAP.
Most recently, food banks in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Fort Worth have been authorized
to conduct SNAP eligibility interviews. In San Antonio, food bank workers help clients fill out the
application, and if they have all required documentation with them, conduct the interview and
give them an EBT card. If the state eligibility office approves the clients for SNAP benefits, they
will be notified and benefits will be placed on their card.
Food Bank of Northern Nevada Food Stamp Outreach information:
Nevada Nonprofit News, “Food Bank of Northern Nevada Wins National Award,” (February 28,
2nd Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida: www.foodbankcentralflorida.org/site/PageServer
Houston Chronicle, “Food bank will qualify applicants for stamps,” (March 1, 2010):
San Antonio Food Bank SNAP information: www.safoodbank.org/index.php/programs/client-
FNS, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - Summary of Certification Interview
Policy Relevant to Community Partner Interviewer Demonstration Projects,” (March 3, 2010):
Food banks interested in starting or increasing SNAP outreach efforts can look to the business community
for support. When food bank staff explain the “business case” for SNAP and how enrolling more people in
SNAP supports their missions, philanthropic businesses, both small and large, may respond with
generosity and excitement.
Bank of America Charitable Foundation made a $1.1 million grant donation to Feeding America in support
of SNAP outreach. The Food Bank of Northern Nevada, which received $30,000, will be able to expand
the group’s existing outreach program. This program is participating in the “community partner interview”
demonstration waiver described above and has already shown gains in the acceptance rate of Food Bank
SNAP applications. Like many corporate donations, Bank of America is pairing financial support with
volunteer time, as highlighted by the San Francisco Food Bank.
Nevada Nonprofit News, “Food Bank of Northern Nevada Receives Grant from Bank of America
Charitable Foundation” (February 4, 2011):
The Western Edition San Francisco, “Bank of America works to fight hunger with local food
bank,” (October 31, 2010): www.thewesternedition.com/?c=117&a=1632