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Granite State Rumblings: The Most Important Tool To Combat Hunger Is SNAP

SNAPOur nation’s most important tool to combat hunger is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). In 2014, it helped more than 46 million low-income Americans to afford a nutritionally adequate diet in a typical month. The federal government pays 100 percent of SNAP/Food Stamp program benefits. Federal and State governments share administrative costs (with the federal government contributing nearly 50 percent.)

In the weak economy resulting from the recent recession, SNAP helped ensure that more than 48,000 households in New Hampshire had access to the food and nutrition needed to stay healthy. The SNAP (Food Stamps) program also provides access to food to more than 1,600 homeless households in New Hampshire.

The overwhelming majority of SNAP participants are children, seniors, or people with disabilities. SNAP also serves a huge number of households with a working adult whose job just doesn’t pay enough for them to make ends meet. SNAP fills in the cracks for low-wage workers, making sure they aren’t forced to choose between feeding their families and paying the rent. The benefits SNAP provides are very modest, the average SNAP recipient received about $125 a month (or about $4.17 a day) in fiscal year 2014.

We are concerned by continual attempts to weaken SNAP, at both the state and federal levels. SNAP helps thousands of New Hampshire and Maine households put healthy food on the table every day. The program grew to meet the need during the economic recession and now participation is slowly declining as our economy improves. Attempts to further restrict the program are unnecessary and shortsighted. Denying individuals access to food assistance would have long terms consequences for our nation’s health and productivity that are far greater than any immediate budget savings.

Fundamentally, SNAP is about giving families, children, and individuals the opportunities they deserve. For parents working in low-wage jobs, SNAP allows them to focus on things beyond where their next meal will come from. For kids, SNAP means going to school with a full stomach so that they can focus and succeed in the classroom. For seniors, SNAP ensures they can fill their prescriptions and still buy enough groceries to remain healthy and independent. And for adults struggling through an unexpected job loss, illness, or other tragedy, SNAP provides an important stepping stone, helping them get through a hard time. Last but not least, SNAP supports our grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and state economy by bringing our federal tax dollars back to the states.

As we enter a new year and we still have many families struggling, please let our lawmakers know that SNAP is quietly providing dignity and opportunity for millions of Americans when they need it most.

GROWING UP GRANITE

You see them in the grocery stores during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays – the readymade boxes or bags of grocery items that you can purchase and then have donated to a family in need. They are a wonderful way to help get food to the people who need it. But what happens when the holidays are over? The need continues, but do donations?

The NH Food Bank has some ideas about how to continue to meet the needs of others throughout the year:

Tips for hosting your own food drive

By hosting a food drive you can help the NH Food Bank continue to meet the needs of many people in our community. Here are some tips that may help you plan a successful drive:

Tell us about your drive.

We love to list food and fund drives on our website. Some donors visit our site to see where they can bring food donations, so giving us your information may help increase participation. Even if your drive is internal and you aren’t looking for outside donations, telling us about your drive will help us to keep track of when to expect new food items to arrive. In order to keep a steady flow of food, we will stagger food drive dates when possible and coordinate our food purchases with times we know food drives will be few.

Click here to download our Event Request Form and e-mail it to Lisa Smith Dean, fax it to Attn: Food Drives at (603) 669-0270, or mail it to New Hampshire Food Bank, Attn: Landis, 700 East Industrial Park Drive, Manchester, NH 03109. We will review your form and get back to you with any requests for support or materials that you include.

Think about what would motivate your audience, and how to communicate with them.

Office Drives

  • Have your coworkers “pay” 5 food items to be able to dress down on Friday
  • Offer up a half day to the person or department that brings the most items
  • See if your company would be willing to match cash donations, or match each food item donated with $1
  • Send e-mails to everyone in the office and put up fliers in high-traffic areas such as bathrooms, elevators and bulletin boards

School Drives

  • Have a competition between classes to see who can collect the most items
  • Have a pep rally to kick off the drive
  • Give updates on who is winning the competition on a daily or weekly basis over the PA system
  • Have a reward for the winning class – maybe a pizza party or ice cream sundaes

One-Time Drive

  • Spread the word as early as possible, and send a reminder a day or two before the event
  • If there is only one day when you are collecting food items, it’s important to remind your group a few times so that they remember to bring their items

Promote, promote, promote. If no one knows about your drive, no one will participate. Think of your audience and what modes of communication are available:

  • E-mails
  • Fliers in office mailboxes
  • Posters and fliers in public areas
  • Press Releases in a local newspaper
  • Announcements in a newsletter
  • Announcements on a PA system
  • Mention on a website
  • Public Service Announcements (PSAs) on a radio station

Combine your food drive with a fund drive.

Lots of people forget to bring their items while they are dealing with the everyday stress of life – consider collecting cash or check donations as well. Checks can be made out to “NH Food Bank,” and you can mail them to us after the event. If you collect cash donations, we do not recommend mailing cash – bring your cash to the Food Bank along with your food collection, or contact us to work out logistics.

Set a goal.

Whether you’re at a school or an office, everyone understands a goal. Some groups have set a numerical goal – collect 5,000 cans of soup, or 1,000 boxes of cereal. Other groups strive to fill an object – an outdoor store might try to fill a canoe with food, or a school might try to fill 5 recycling bins. Something visual always motivates people to participate – if possible, keep your canoe or recycling bins in a public area so everyone can see how the drive is going. If you’re close to your goal and everyone sees it, they might be more willing to help get you that last little bit.

Have food you would like to donate?

Bring your food donations to our new warehouse located at 700 East Industrial Park Drive in Manchester. Our hours are 8am-4pm Monday thru Thursday and 8am-2pm on Friday. If you are holding a food drive, or for those who have difficulty getting to us, there are some other options. Depending on your location and the volume of food you have to donate, we may be able to arrange a pickup or we can refer you to one of our registered agencies in your area.

Birthday Parties

A growing number of children are helping the Food Bank stock our shelves by asking their friends to bring food items to their birthday parties rather than gifts. Rather than accumulating piles of gifts that will never be used, e-mail Lisa Smith Dean to find out what types of food items are in demand and have your child’s friends bring those food items to donate. Instead of parents going out each month to buy birthday presents, they can pick up some extra items at their next grocery store run. This helps to feed the hungry in our state as well as teaches your children about the importance (and reward!) of charitable giving.

Food donors are protected from liability under the Good Samaritan Law and are able to take a tax deduction equal to cost plus one half of normal mark-up.

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About MaryLou Beaver

New Hampshire Campaign Director Every Child Matters Education Fund
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