I invite you to join me in taking the SNAP the Silence Challenge on February 4-8. Though we live in a thriving county that is, in many ways, the envy of the nation, we too often allow our successes to overshadow the ongoing struggles of some of our neighbors and community members.
The goal of the SNAP the Silence Challenge to raise awareness for working families who struggle to put food on the table and depend on the nutritional safety net. This Challenge calls on individuals to experience life on public nutrition assistance by eating for $5 per day for five days. While living on a SNAP budget for just a week will not come close to the struggles encountered by low-income working families, it does provide a new perspective and greater understanding for those who take the Challenge.
The Challenge seeks not only to raise awareness about poverty in Montgomery County, but aims to unite partners from all corners of our community--elected officials, non-profit leaders, students, and local organizers--in a collaboration that can produce not only a heightened understanding of these issues, but solutions to combat them.
I hope you can join me. Your voice will be a crucial part of this effort, and your energy will help us generate momentum to get our message out to as many people as possible. For your convenience, I have attached some information about the Challenge. Please register by signing up here. Also, be sure to "like" the Facebook page to receive regular updates and to share your experiences with others who are taking the Challenge.
Thank you for your consideration. I know that by working together we will accomplish great things.
SNAP the Silence about Poverty
Are You Up for the Challenge?
Join Valerie Ervin in living on a SNAP budget for one week; Gain a perspective for a lifetime
We all know how expensive it is to live in Montgomery County. What many people may not know is how many working families struggle to put food on the table everyday. The current economic crisis has forced more people than ever to ask for public assistance.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, supports those whose wages are too low to lift them out of poverty, helping them to put food on the table. This federal program allows individuals that qualify to purchase food to eat, or to buy seeds and plants which produce food for the household.
In October 2012, approximately 65,200 County residents participated in the SNAP program. From July through October 2012, an average of 2,400 households applied for SNAP benefits each month. For families that qualify for the SNAP program, the average daily benefit per person, according to USDA/FNS statistics, is $4.28 per day.
Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin invites you to join her in taking the SNAP the Silence Challenge. Participants will only spend $5 on food each day. While living on a SNAP budget for just a week will not come close to the struggles encountered by low-income working families, it does provide a new perspective and greater understanding for those who take the challenge.
What: Take the SNAP Challenge. Spend $5 on food per day per person for one week.
When: February 4 - 8, 2013
Who: Join your friends, neighbors and others who have already accepted the challenge.
Taking the SNAP Challenge
What is SNAP?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) supports those whose wages are too low to lift them out of poverty, helping them to put food on the table. Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, this Federal program allows individuals that qualify to purchase food to eat, or to buy seeds and plants which produce food for the household. Individuals can these benefits at supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience and specialty stores, and farmers markets.
The monthly benefit amount for a household is based on several factors including income and family size (see chart below), as well as shelter expenses, telephone and utility costs. The County's Department of Health & Human Services notes that SNAP benefits are given to clients to supplement clients' food budget. It is not meant to be a sufficient amount to meet all nutritional needs.
In October 2012, approximately 65,200 County residents participated in the SNAP program. From July through October 2012, an average of 2,400 households applied for SNAP benefits each month. Based on the State guidelines for SNAP benefits, the maximum benefit per person in the household could be as much as $6.67 per day. However, based on data from USDA/FNS' website, the average benefit per person is closer to $4.28 per day.
For more information: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/
SNAP Challenge Rules
- Each person should spend no more than $5 per day per person on food and beverages during the week. All food purchased and eaten, including dining out, must be included in the total spending.
- During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchased for the week. Do not eat food that you already own (excluding spices and condiments).
- Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or at work.
- Keep track of receipts on food spending and take note of your experiences throughout the week. You will be able to share your thoughts here.
*In reality, the SNAP benefit varies based on the eligible recipient. According to the USDA, the average benefit is $4.28 per day. Since it is meant to be a nutrition supplement program, the $5 per diem was picked for simplicity in administering the SNAP Challenge.
What can I buy?
Participants can purchase any food (http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/contact_info/widget.htm), such as breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats, fish and poultry, dairy products.
Are there any helpful suggestions or recipes?
Yes, the USDA website is an excellent resource (http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/). A few other resources are:
How can I share my experience?
You are encouraged to share your experience throughout the week:
On February 8, Councilmember Ervin invites you to join IMPACT Silver Spring at the Silver Spring Civic Building from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. for a community debriefing on the shared experiences participants had during the SNAP Challenge. More details to follow.
Who else is taking the SNAP Challenge?
Hundreds of people have stepped up to the Challenge, including elected representatives, faith-based and community leaders, and many of your friends and neighbors. So far, notable participants include:
- Ike Leggett, County Executive, Montgomery County
- Ariana Kelly, District 16 Delegate, Maryland General Assembly
- Aruna Miller, District 15 Delegate, Maryland General Assembly
- Nancy Navarro, Council President and District 4 Councilmember, Montgomery County Council
- Craig Rice, Council Vice-President and District 2 Councilmember, Montgomery County Council
- Roger Berliner, District 1 Councilmember, Montgomery County Council
- Marc Elrich, At-Large Councilmember, Montgomery County Council
- Nancy Floreen, At-Large Councilmember, Montgomery County Council
- George Leventhal, At-Large Councilmember, Montgomery County Council
- Hans Riemer, At-Large Councilmember, Montgomery County Council
- Christopher Barclay, President, Montgomery County Board of Education
- Shirley Brandman, At-Large Member, Montgomery County Board of Education
- Peter Fosselman, Mayor, Town of Kensington
- Komal Ahmad, Founder and CEO/President, Feeding Forward
- Marilyn Balcombe, President and CEO, Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce
- Mark Bergel, Founder and Executive Director, A Wider Circle
- Judith Clark, Founder and Executive Director, Women Who Care Ministries
- Jacki Coyle, Executive Director, Shepherd's Table
- Rev. Patricia Drumming, Rainbow Community Development Center
- Ronnie Galvin, Executive Director, IMPACT Silver Spring
- Marie Henderson, Executive Director, Interfaith Works
- D'Juan Hopewell, Maryland Advocacy Manager, Share Our Strength
- Jonathan Jayes-Green, former Student Member, Montgomery College Board of Trustees
- Michele Levy, Co-Director, Crossroads Farmers Market
- Mark McLaurin, Political Director, SEIU Local 500
- Brett Meyers, Founder and Executive Director, Nourish Now
- Anita Powell, President, NAACP, Montgomery County Maryland Branch
- David Rodich, Executive Director, SEIU Local 500
- Reemberto Rodriguez, Director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center
- Ben Simon, Founder and Executive Director, Food Recovery Network
- Jeffrey Slavin, Board of Directors Chair, The Nonprofit Village
- Dr. Joshua Starr, Superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools
- Kathy Stevens, Executive Director, Montgomery Coalition for Adult English Literacy
- Jenna Umbriac, Nutrition Educator, Manna Food Center
- NAACP, Montgomery County Branch
Why is the SNAP Challenge important?
In 2012, the self-sufficiency standard-the minimum income families require to achieve financial security-for a family of four in Montgomery County is approximately $82,877. County residents are experiencing stagnant wages, rising health care costs and increasing prices at the gas pump, the supermarket and retail stores.
The issue of poverty is often hidden in an affluent jurisdictions; yet, according to the Planning Department, the rate of poverty increased to 7.5 percent in 2010, totaling over 72,000 residents. The Capital Area Food Bank reports that 40 percent of its clients must choose between food and other necessities like housing, utilities, medical care and transportation. This problem of hunger is ever increasing in our county, as approximately one-third of County students currently qualify for Free and Reduced Meals (FARMs).
Councilmember Ervin is taking the SNAP Challenge to raise awareness for the area's working families who struggle to put food on the table and depend on the nutritional safety net.
What can we do?
There are many things policymakers and advocates can do at a time when working families continue to be stretched to their limit. These include:
- Remain committed to the social safety net, including emergency and other assistance to the neediest members of our community.
- Ensure that children have enough nutritious food at school by increasing access to and participation in the federal nutrition programs, such as the Summer Food Program and universal breakfast.
- Expand the amount of space available for community gardening, especially in areas of need, to provide additional plots for hands-on food production and increased self-sufficiency.
- Foster economic development to provide opportunities for all. In working to create jobs, we must remember that the types of these jobs matter. If those jobs pay low wages, even if individuals work full-time, it might not be enough to lift them above the poverty line.