INDIANA – Hoosier Hills Food Bank is creating a new program that will identify people who are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and assist them in applying for and obtaining them.
A new SNAP Outreach and Application Assistance Coordinator is charged with working through existing HHFB programs and agency partners and creating new collaborative relationships to improve SNAP participation in the food bank’s six-county service area.
Feeding America estimates that 15% of eligible SNAP beneficiaries do not receive benefits, creating greater food insecurity and often placing greater responsibility on the charitable food assistance network.
“For every meal provided by the charitable food network, SNAP provides 9. It is critical that we connect people who are eligible for SNAP with the benefits they need to be food secure,” said HHFB Julio Alonso. “The fact is that food banks and food pantries simply can’t get enough food to keep up with what has become a consistently high level of need. We don’t have enough food or monetary donations to supply everyone. We need to be innovative and look at ways to help food insecure people find additional benefits to help them through difficult times.”
In 2022, HHFB distributed 5,639,291 pounds of food, its second-highest year ever. Yet less than two-thirds of its partner agencies reported receiving enough food. “70% of our agencies say that their numbers are increasing. With inflation hitting people with low or fixed incomes especially hard right now, it’s critical that we use every means possible to get them the food they need and that includes enrolling in SNAP if they’re eligible,” said Alonso.
The new program is funded by a $100,000 grant from Feeding America, which has prioritized encouraging its 200-member food banks to employ SNAP outreach as a tactic to combat hunger and food insecurity that goes beyond food distribution. The funds will cover a coordinator’s salary, supplies, outreach materials, and other related program expenses through 2024.
HHFB has hired Bloomington native Mike Holbrook as its first SNAP Outreach and Application Assistance Coordinator, and he will begin evaluating the best methods for outreach at food bank programs and with partner agencies as well as developing new relationships with other organizations.
“I’m very excited for this opportunity to not just become a foodbanker, but to extend a helping hand to all the communities I’ve been brought up around,” said Holbrook. “Less than half of the nearly 34,000 food insecure individuals in our service area are receiving SNAP benefits, so we believe there is a lot of potential to help people enroll in the benefits that could help them get to food security.” Organizations interested in potential partnerships or people who may be eligible for SNAP can reach out to Holbrook at email@example.com or 812-334-8374.
In addition to providing food to nearly 100 partner agencies in six counties, HHFB operates a senior food box program in all six counties and a mobile food pantry program in five.