Over 47 million Americans currently receive food assistance through food stamps, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. In the last week a computer glitch caused the SNAP electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card system to be temporarily unavailable, resulting in some people not getting food and others getting too much. There has also been a directive for states to withhold benefit payments to participants for the month of November until further notice issued. Of course, this could turn out to be nothing if the government rights itself with a budget deal, but any situation that stops benefits to those who rely on the SNAP program for food could cause some serious problems.
There are many ways these benefits could be halted in the future, including government budget problems, natural disasters, or widespread power outages. So what can be done if food assistance benefits are unavailable?
For Those Receiving Benefits
If you are the recipient of food stamps and benefits are not available, you will still need to feed your family. I implore you to take food storage seriously now. If you have a supply of food, even a small one, you can feed your family for some time without needing the assistance of outside groups. Food assistance programs CAN be used to purchase shelf stable canned and dry foods that you can add to your food storage if they are not needed that month to feed your family, so it is possible to build a supply of food even if you are receiving government food assistance. If benefits are not available and you do NOT have food stored, there are other sources for food assistance. Be aware that in a large scale event, these sources can become overwhelmed as well and may not have food available to provide you.
- Family or friends. If you have no food for your family, do not be too proud to ask your family or friends for help. They may be in a better financial situation or have food available and be willing to offer assistance to help you get the food you need.
- Food Banks. Food banks rely on donations from individuals and businesses and generally have many non-perishable foods available as well as some refrigerated and frozen foods. Qualifications for receiving food may vary depending on the food bank.
- Soup Kitchens. These facilities may be open only certain days or for certain meals, but some serve three meals a day five days a week. Offer to volunteer to serve or clean up to help the kitchen.
- LDS Church Bishops. You do not need to be a member of the LDS Church to receive help from your local Bishop’s Storehouse. You will need to consult with your local bishop and they may ask you to perform some type of service (like cleaning buildings or working hours in the storehouse) in return for any help you may receive.
- Other Local Charities. Check with the United Way for other local charities that may be able to provide assistance to you or your family.
Look for ways to decrease your dependence on government support. With the state of the government lately, they are the last ones I would want to rely on to provide anything for my family.
Receiving Benefits or Not
Whether or not you are currently receiving SNAP benefits, there are some very real possibilities if food assistance programs are stopped that you should be aware of.
- Increased theft. People will steal to feed their families. They may steal food or other valuable items that could be traded or sold for food. Be extra vigilant in guarding yourself and your family if food supplies are scarce.
- Riots or civil unrest. This is food we’re talking about. People have been known to riot over sports games, so you know things could get out of hand with a disruption to food supplies. Hungry people are not known to be the most reasonable, especially if their system of providing food for their families is suddenly gone. This could happen within hours of realizing the system is not working. Be prepared to leave dangerous situations, even if it means leaving your full grocery cart in a store to take yourself out of a bad situation. Get home or to another safe location, and plan to stay put until it is safe to leave.
This all goes back to being self reliant and the basics of being prepared. Just another possible scenario where having a plan, communications, food storage, and a means of protecting and defending yourself could be a life saver.
Keep preparing! Angela
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Anita Robertson says
Mother-84- & I live together for financial reasons. She is slowing down but still active. She gets SS & I get SS Widows benefits. I am growing as much as I can. I also belong to Gleaners. I am canning, jamming, freezing any & all I can get my hands on, from fresh produce & other foods given out thru distribution. Gleaners has helped fill my freezer & pantry. Some foods we get are dehydrated veggies, fruits & occasionally meats. These go in storage for SHTF. I know it is coming sooner than most realize. Thank you so much for the info you share…It’s nice to know I am doing some things right…
K. Moore says
Thank goodness it’s deer season. I’m gonna put some meat in the freezer this year. Hunt over the winter and stock up enough to last thru the summer until next season. There’s fishing too. Eating wild meat and fish is very healthy. Live off the land as much as you can like our ancestors did. Don’t rely on a grocery store anymore than you have to.
Bobby Billy says
You have forgotten that people relying on SNAP are already on the edge (and some over) of daily hunger and that they do not have the option for stocking up on food because that means actual hunger. The “money” a person/family receives through SNAP does not provide for diet of filet mignon and caviar but more like ramen noodles, soup, PB&J and maybe a few fresh vegetables and fruit. And when you live in an apartment building, there is no land upon which to build a vegetable garden or own a few chickens. SNAP is not a gift or a scam, it is a blessing by the American people who see the value in having such a program to help out those fallen on hard times.
I understand it may not be possible for some who receive SNAP to do anything but eat the food they can afford to purchase. Never having used the SNAP program for myself I used the data for average benefits at around $133 per person per month. For a family of 6 like mine that is $800 per month in food benefits, and my average monthly food costs are between $500 and $600 paying with my own money. So, just using my own family’s example I surmised it could be possible to have benefits that could purchase food that would not have to be eaten that month. Even if it is only $20 worth of rice or canned soup that could be put aside, that is better than having nothing available to you if benefits stop for whatever reason. Thanks for your comment!
You are right Angela. I had Snap benefits and when I was on the program, the $200 a month I received was way more than I have ever spent for one person in my life. I was able to stock my emergency supply very well and still ate well)l (so did my dog. I always manage to grow some food if only in pots. That is something even children can do. The problem with the EBT system is that it doesn’t cover toilet tissue, soap, shampoo, OTC pain meds, ointments etc. When people stop living on junk food and instant high priced, low nutrition pseudo food, there is no reason to not put by food for emergencies.
While there may be some families that receive benefits that high, many do not and are still struggling. We for instance, a family of 5, received $209 per month and were recently reduced to $167 per month with the end of the stimulus. Its not much but it helps tremendously and with that and WIC we have been able to get back on our feet. Thankfully our situation has been temporary and my husband is starting a new job! (I work also). It terrifies me to think that there are so many people completely dependant on this system for food, and many abusing the system as well. But you had better believe we have been purchasing items with long shelf lives- planning on being completely off help by January ’14 and to continue doing well, and to have our big garden started in the spring. We’ll have come full circle, but I’ll never get caught in a situation again where we need help to feed our family! !
Living in an apartment is no excuse for not having at least a tiny garden. Herbs can be grown on the kitchen window seal in small pots, as can lettuce or spinach. Tomato, squash, peppers and miniature fruit trees can all be grown in pots on the porch, balcony or patio. And even if it’s not much, people who have extra canned food will be willing to trade for some fresh produce or herbs.
Bobby Billy says
Wow, Sherry, I know of a lot of apartment dwellers who’d love to trade you for your “luxurious” apartment with porches and balconies and patios. Perhaps you’re thinking of condos? Seriously, how the f@@k do you know the living quarters of everybody else? I can show you whole neighborhoods of apartments with no outdoor space and no kitchen windows with sills and no extra space. Where are these people with extra canned food looking to trade? How do people find them? Are they within walking distance or does one need to pay bus fare to get there? Why don’t you take your self-righteousness and shove it up your arrogant a@@?
PL C says
Something to consider: poor neighborhoods in the city frequently do not have supermarkets at all. There is only an occasional Mom&Pop store with (necessarily) higher prices and limited choices. You are right that living quarters frequently have no possible place to plant a bit (and from pots, you might get one or two meals’ worth of food, anyway). In most cities, at least, the recipients of SNAP must take long bus rides to a decent market, then haul bags home. Bulk purchases of staples, the basis of long term storage, are not regularly available (plus where to store such is an issue, too). We hear about welfare fraud all too frequently, but lots of SNAP folks are barely making it. Educating might help – how to ensure good nutrition on a tiny budget, and store food for future disruptions. As if the gubmint would admit their support could ever falter.