The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) helps roughly 780,000 low-income people in Massachusetts buy nutritious food for themselves and their families. But not everyone eligible for this vital assistance receives help—in some places, most don’t.
In the town of Norwood alone, over 60 percent of SNAP-eligible people don’t receive SNAP benefits.
Residents there face a 30-minute drive, or 90-minute trip on public transportation, to the closest Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) office, the state agency that administers SNAP. Even though SNAP applicants are not required to apply in-person, towns further from DTA offices tend to have more people eligible for SNAP benefits but not participating in the program.
The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) works with local partners across Eastern Massachusetts to increase access to SNAP. In June 2017, GBFB and the Norwood Ecumenical Food Pantry began working together to offer SNAP application assistance during select food distributions. While waiting to ‘shop’, clients can work with a GBFB team member to determine their eligibility for SNAP benefits and receive help completing their SNAP applications.
“The work being done by GBFB to enable clients to apply for SNAP assistance has been a tremendous help. The application process is a challenge for many of them,” said Claudia Mackey, assistant executive director at the Norwood Ecumenical Food Pantry. “Clients have come up to me afterwards commenting on how helpful [this assistance] is and they are very excited to receive SNAP benefits that they had never before been able to receive.”