4 Food Assistance Programs for FamiliesFebruary 4, 2015
By Jessica Vician
The winter months can be difficult—regardless of the part of the country in which you live, the weather is cooler and bills may be a little higher, which can make affording nutritious food difficult for some families. There are many assistance programs that will provide food, healthcare referrals, nutrition education, and discounts to families who qualify. If you are in need of food assistance this winter, read through this list of four popular programs to see if you’re eligible.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) provides nutrition assistance, including food stamps and other benefits, to families who need support getting food. Not all families are eligible, as the household’s gross monthly income must not exceed a certain number. For example, if you have a two-person household and make more than $1,265 per month (before taxes), you will not be eligible for SNAP. If you think you may qualify, contact your local SNAP office to apply. Many states allow you to apply in several different ways. For example, in Illinois, you can apply online, mail in a paper application, or apply at your local family community resource center.
WIC is a special program from SNAP that offers food, healthcare referrals, and nutrition education to certain women, infants, and children (hence the WIC name). Portions of the program can even help with formula purchases and buying fresh fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets. To be eligible for the WIC Program, women and children must meet several requirements, including residential, income, and nutrition risk. Women must either be pregnant, breastfeeding (up to one year after the child’s birth), or postpartum (up to six months after birth or end of pregnancy), and the child cannot be older than five. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment to apply for the WIC Program, contact your WIC state agency by phone.
National School Lunch Program
Depending on a family’s income level, some children are eligible to receive a free or reduced price lunch during school, thanks to the National School Lunch Program. These meals, which are subsidized by federal and state funds, meet the latest USDA nutrition requirements. You can apply for this program by contacting the appropriate state department or organization on this website.
Feeding America is a network of local food banks, pantries, and programs that serve people throughout the nation. If you are in need of assistance, you can use the food bank locator tool on their website to contact your local food bank. Their website also has a great list of other assistance programs that you may be eligible for, along with their contact information.
There are many programs that can help you and your family this winter and throughout the year—you just need to find them. Hopefully this list helps ignite your search. Here’s to a healthy and fulfilling 2015!