LiveWell Northwest Colorado: Take the SNAP challenge | SteamboatToday.com

LiveWell Northwest Colorado: Take the SNAP challenge

Barb Parnell/For Steamboat Today

Imagine you only had $4.50 to spend on all of your food and beverages for one day. How would you spend it? For many of us, that is one trip to a coffee shop in the morning, and then we wouldn't have money left for the rest of the day. Why only $4.50? It is the average amount of money people who depend on SNAP benefits have to spend on food and beverages every day.

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly called the food stamp program, is the largest food assistance program in the U.S. It provides a monthly benefit to qualifying individuals and households for food purchases. For a family of four (two adults and two school-aged children) to qualify for SNAP benefits, their annual income must be no greater than $30,615 (130 percent of the federal poverty level).

Monthly benefits range from $15 to $632 per month, depending upon family size and income. It is important to note that the closer a family of four is to the $30,615, the lower the allotment of SNAP benefits.

The monthly benefit is estimated to provide about $1.50 per meal per person. For many families, the SNAP benefit is only enough for three weeks of food, and they have to find other food resources for the last week of the month. This typically is the local food pantry, which, for area residents, is LiftUp of Routt County.

Facts about SNAP recipients:

• One in every 10 individuals is on SNAP in Colorado.

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• Ninety percent of those on SNAP have worked the year before or are working the year after being on SNAP.

Only about 3.5 percent of the U.S. population is permanently on SNAP.

• In 2013, 52 percent of SNAP households with children worked and had earnings; only 11 percent received welfare.

• SNAP benefits helped lift 4.8 million Americans out of poverty in 2013.

• Every $1 spent in SNAP benefits adds $1.80 to the local economy.

The Department of Human Services administers the SNAP program in Routt County. In 2015, approximately 569 households per month were enrolled in SNAP locally. Since it has been estimated we have more than 3,000 food insecure residents in Routt County, there are many more households in the county that are eligible for the SNAP benefit but are not enrolled.

I have worked with the community for the past five years to increase access to healthy foods for our food insecure. I try to understand the experience so I can be a better support. But, I have never been hungry and without resources to get food. I really don't know what it is like to go into an office, ask for help and then try to keep my food budget to $1.50 per meal.

If you would like to better understand what many of our working poor experience, please join my husband and me during the month of November to take the SNAP Challenge. The steps follow:

• Choose a seven-day (or less) period for your challenge.

• You have $4.50 per day per family member to spend on all your foods and beverages. You can use coupons but cannot shop at membership clubs such as Costco.

• Purchase all your food and beverages using the money you have allotted.

• During the challenge, do not eat food you purchased prior to starting the challenge.

• Keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of your experiences.

• Share your experience with us on the LiveWellNWCO Facebook page.

We are fortunate that we live in a county with many resources and supports. I hope you, your family and colleagues have a better understanding of the issue of hunger a significant segment of our community experiences and with this new understanding will support local efforts so all of our residents have healthy food choices.

I wish you all a healthy Thanksgiving.

Barb Parnell, Ph.D., is community coordinator for LiveWell Northwest Colorado.