Jessica Luna, Program Associate, DC Hunger Solutions provides some background on the role that Food Stamps/SNAP has played in the DC community over the last several years.
Since 2009, SNAP participation has increased dramatically in D.C. A large portion of SNAP’s growth is due to the recession, marked by unemployment and underemployment. SNAP is a program designed to grow when times are tough—because it is a federal entitlement, there are no waiting lists for the program, or caps on whom can participate. As District residents saw hours cut or jobs disappearing in the hardest days of the recession, SNAP was there to meet the need.
Below is an excerpt from one participant’s Food Stamp Challenge diary:
Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, Vice-President, Washington Area Women’s Foundation
What was most interesting about the first day [of the Food Stamp Challenge] was the conversation that the staff of The Women’s Foundation engaged in during our staff meeting. Four of us are undertaking the challenge—two of us on our own, and the other two with their families.
Each of us also reflected on the “luxuries” we had as we did our shopping, the first being transportation to easily get us to the grocery store at whatever time of the day of night we needed to go. Additionally, the four of us live in Northern Virginia where we have access to a multitude of grocery stores and markets. One staff person shopped around for the best deals and as a result ended up shopping at several different stores.
It was a stark reminder that many living in our region do not have these “luxuries.” According to new data from DC Kids Count one-third of DC neighborhood clusters do not have a grocery store. Of these neighborhoods, nearly half have child poverty rates above 50 percent. So where do these families shop, and what are they buying?
Click here to read this and other Food Stamp Challenge diary entries in their entirety. To learn more about “food deserts”- areas with inadequate access to grocery stores and other food sources- check out the following resources: USDA food desert locator, this Center for Disease Control feature, and DC Hunger Solution facts about local food insecurity and food deserts.