A single parent raising two kids while working and getting a degree, a retired military veteran who volunteers at the neighborhood school, and a young adult with autism who struggles to keep a job – all of them have something in common. Each benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. SNAP recipients make grocery purchases with a type of debit card and are able to purchase foods that meet their dietary needs and cultural preferences. Above all, SNAP benefits help people to be healthy and successful.
"I try to eat as well as I can, but it's hard," says Marleen. "Eating more fruits and vegetables is better for my health, but they're really expensive. I do use the food bank, especially for meat and fresh vegetables, and it really helps. I attend Portland Community College and it just opened a farmers market. I can use my SNAP benefits there."
SNAP is the most important anti-hunger program in the country, especially during economic downturns. The federal government pays the full cost of SNAP benefits and splits the cost of administering the program with the states, which operate the program. While eligibility rules and benefit levels are set by the federal government, states are able to tailor certain aspects of the program as they see fit. In Oregon, the average monthly SNAP benefit for each household member is just $122. That's about $1.35 per meal.
"SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger," says Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan. "Despite what some people say, data shows us that the overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients who can work do so, and children make up 44 percent of SNAP beneficiaries. Wages have not kept up with accelerating costs of housing, child care and health insurance."
"My husband works full time and we spend as much as he makes on food," says Christine. "I have three children that do not belong to me that I support and take care of. Plus, the neighboring teenagers that come over because they don't eat at their house. It's really expensive to feed so many. I receive SNAP benefits and it helps, but I can't claim other people's kids even though I'm the one feeding them."
"I became disabled and I get a certain amount of money a month," says Steve. "Food stamps don't go as far as they should, and so that's why I'm at the food bank."
Oregon Food Bank is there to fill the gap when SNAP benefits run out but the month isn't over. Across the tri-county Portland-metro area, there are more than 341 food programs including pantries, meal sites, cooking classes and gardening courses that serve 104,600 people a year.
Your support of Oregon Food Bank is crucial to ending hunger in our community and preserving the social programs that have been proven to lift people out of poverty.
"No one should be hungry. Not in America. Not ever," says Morgan. "SNAP works; it helps keep hunger from our neighbors' doors."