What to Do When You Can’t Afford Food


Illustration for article titled What to Do When You Can’t Afford Food

Image: Dragana Gordic (Shutterstock)

As the pandemic continues to impact the nation, including almost 900,000 unemployment claims, families continue struggling to make ends meet. For many Americans, this may include the painful challenge of being unable to afford food.

The latest survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, with data from August 19 through August 31, revealed about 10% of Americans, or 22.3 million people, sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat. This is more than double the number of folks who reported food insecurity in 2019, according to a recent USDA report.

While these numbers don’t offer an exact comparison, one thing is clear—hunger is a growing problem. If you’re unable to put food on the table, these are some of the best options for your family.

Apply for SNAP benefits

Start by applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through your state’s website. Depending on the size of your household, you may qualify based on your state’s gross and net income thresholds—which may be less than $27,732 (gross) and $21,336 (net) per year for a family of three.

Once you are eligible, you will receive a notice about your certification period covering how long you may receive benefits. You may need to recertify to continue receiving SNAP benefits.

See if your qualify for WIC

Another program to consider is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which Congress funds each year through state agencies.

To qualify, you must meet four levels of criteria—categorical, residential, income, and nutritional risk—and you can see a break-down of each one here. The income thresholds are a little higher for WIC benefits—currently $37,296 per year for a family of three.

You may also see if you qualify for benefits through WIC’s prescreening tool and then make an appointment with your local office.

Take advantage of free lunches

While Congress may be struggling with the next stimulus package, the USDA has extended the free summer lunch program through the end of 2020. This no-cost program allows students to access free, nutritious meals—even if schools shift to distance learning.

Look for local food pantries

Even if you’re not eligible for SNAP or WIC benefits, you may explore local food pantry options through Feeding America, the country’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. You may find a local food bank through the organization’s online search tool.

If Feeding America falls short, try searching for local assistance through HomelessShelterDirectory.org, FoodPantries.org, FreeFood.org, or AmpleHarvest.org. You may also contact local religious groups if there are no food banks nearby.

 



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