Food Stamp Outreach
The Food and Nutrition Services Program (FNS) is the new name for what used to be called Food Stamps.
Only your county DSS office can determine eligibility but here are a few tools that can help you decide if it is worth your time to apply. You can review the income limits, fill out an application and mail, fax, or walk it in to your county DSS office. You must apply for benefits in the county where you live.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services provides an online prescreening tool to check potential eligibility. Go to ePass to see if you might be eligible for FNS benefits.
The FNS4NC Coalition is made up of food banks across North Carolina who partner with the local DSS offices to conduct FNS outreach. The FNS4NC website provides information about the FNS program.
From the Hickory Record, here’s an incredible article on the economic impacts of food stamps.
What does a food stamp recipient look like? Close your eyes for a minute and think about who comes to mind when you say the words “food stamps.” Perhaps, because of inaccurate information, the image that comes to mind may be unflattering. The food stamp program has been around in its current form for more than 35 years, and that’s been plenty of time for people to develop stereotypes about who gets “help.” Many are weighed down by the stigma that often comes with receiving food stamps. Some see it as “charity.” However, the fact is – it is not a welfare program. It is a temporary safety net available to those who are trying to get back on their feet.
Positive changes in the program have helped reduce the stigma. The state of NC has changed the name to Food and Nutrition Services Program. Paper coupons that were given out for years have now been replaced with a debit-like Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card.
Now take a minute and look out your window into your neighborhood or pull out a picture album of all the people you love in your family. Say the words “food stamps” again and picture those people, the ones you know, love, and respect. Chances are good that some of those folks, your neighbors and family, have been, or will be, food stamp recipients. The USDA notes a study in Making America Stronger: A Profile of the Food Stamp Program suggesting that “about half (49 percent) of all children will receive benefits before they reach age 20, and about half (51 percent) of all adults will receive benefits at some point between the ages of 20 and 65.” Currently, about 1 in 6 people who live in Western North Carolina access MANNA services, so they might also be visiting one of MANNA’s partner agencies.
How MANNA helps
MANNA FoodBank is expanding Food and Nutrition Services outreach through partner agencies and through direct application assistance to make sure that those people you care about – friends, neighbors, and family – are being given every opportunity to be food secure. FNS helps put nutritious food into homes when people are not able to do that completely on their own.
In our food stamp outreach work, we are seeing more and more people who have never had to ask for emergency food assistance and who never thought they were, or would ever be, eligible for food stamps. Recent food stamp applicants include:
- grandparents on fixed incomes raising grandchildren;
- people recently laid off from steady jobs and in danger of losing cars and apartments;
- people injured at work or diagnosed with chronic illness and unable to find other jobs;
- small business owners who’ve exhausted their savings and are struggling to make ends meet as the economy declines.
One woman told us, “Money is so tight right now that if we run out of anything at home, I burst into tears.” We’ve also talked to many parents and grandparents unsure of how they’d provide enough food for their children during the summer when free and reduced lunches from schools aren’t an option.