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Food and Utility Assistance Programs Available in Times of Food Insecurity
Food and Utility Assistance Programs Available in Times of Food Insecurity

The coronavirus crisis is changing our daily lives, even the way many of us source the food we eat.

Brian Harrison avatar
Written by Brian Harrison
Updated over a week ago

The coronavirus crisis is changing our daily lives, even the way many of us source the food we eat. Social distancing has altered the way we grocery shop. Essentials like flour and meats have been in short supply periodically across the country. A far greater concern, however, is the rising number of food-insecure families due to job losses and reduced hours.

According to the USDA, in 2018, 11.1% of households were food insecure at some point during the year. With job losses piling up around the country, this number is certain to go up in 2020. If you and your family find yourselves needing assistance procuring food, resources are available.

The US government offers two primary food assistance programs: The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Applicants to. both programs must meet limited-income qualifications in order to receive benefits. The chart below shows the income limits from the USDA for SNAP qualification.

SNAP Income Eligibility Limits - Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020

To learn more about SNAP visit the USDA website for more information.

WIC provides additional benefits is designed to serve certain categories of women with infants and children. The following individuals are considered categorically eligible for WIC:

· Women

-Pregnant (during pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after the birth of an infant or the end of the pregnancy

-Postpartum (up to six months after the birth of the infant or the end of the pregnancy)

-Breastfeeding (up to the infant's first birthday)

· Infants (up to the infant's first birthday)

· Children (up to the child's fifth birthday)

To be eligible for WIC, applicants must have income at or below an income level or standard set by the state agency or be determined automatically income-eligible based on existing participation in certain programs.

Income Standard: The state agency's income standard (issued each year by the Department of Health and Human Services) cannot be more than 185 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines.

Automatic Income Eligibility: Certain applicants can be determined income-eligible for WIC based on their current participation in certain programs. These include individuals:

· eligible to receive SNAP benefits, Medicaid, for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, formerly known as AFDC, Aid to Families with Dependent Children),

· in which certain family members are eligible to receive Medicaid or TANF, or

· at state agency option, individuals that are eligible to participate in certain other state-administered programs.

Even if you don’t qualify for SNAP or WIC, local resources may be available. Community food banks, churches and other assistance organizations can provide short term help, especially if you’re still waiting for benefits like your stimulus check or unemployment benefits.

For families with children in public school systems–in some cases even those who do not typically qualify for free or subsidized breakfast and/or lunch at school–the USDA has reached out to individual states, making provisions to ensure the school lunch programs stay active during the outbreak. Many districts are providing drive- or walk-up packed breakfasts and lunches on school days courtesy of the food service staff. Check with your local or regional school district for information on and qualifications for school lunch assistance.

If you are concerned about being able to pay for other necessities, be aware many states and private utility companies have ceased shutting off key necessities like electricity, water, oil and natural gas during the pandemic. If you’re in doubt about your utilities, contact your provider as soon as possible to find out what their policy is. For internet and home telephone services, the FCC has put together a list of telecom companies that are committing to “Keep America Connected.” This means that they will NOT terminate service during the outbreak and will NOT change late fees due to non-payment.

When times are tough, these valuable resources and programs can help you and your family with the essentials, as a bridge before you can get back to work and earning an income.

Special Thanks to for providing some of the key information in this piece.

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