Doing outreach at Goodwill on Sunday afternoon is always an interesting and inspiring experience. There is always a tag sale; today all clothing with a pink tag is 50% off. Although it is cold and blustery, by two o'clock I have visited with over 50 families, educating them about the benefits of food assistance and listening to a wide range of opinions on the subject.
Did you know that if you live alone and make $10 an hour for a forty hour week that you are ineligible for food assistance by $43? Well $10 an hour is decent money but "Shirley" still finds herself deciding between buying food and paying the light bill, especially when the temperature is near zero for so many consecutive days. Thankfully, I can refer her to several good pantries nearby and encourage her to visit them.
In the door comes "Julie" with a big smile for me because just two months ago when we met, she referred a friend whose disabled son is friends with her son, also on disability for a congenital brain disorder. Two months ago "Julie" shared that her family was doing fine with both parents working full time and their son receiving SSI benefits. Fast forward to today, when she reports that her husband has been diagnosed with cancer and will not be able to work for at least a year. He has been approved for Social Security Disability and only has to wait six months for that to begin. She is fortunate to have FMLA which allows her to take off work for his multiple hospital trips. But that is unpaid time off, of course, so she gratefully takes my information and will call me next week to get together to complete a SNAP application. Her cheerful demeanor inspires me, but she tells me of many years ago when they came home with a baby with a severe brain disorder and not much information and no internet to study and learn. She says those dark days have helped her with this diagnosis and she will find the strength to go on.
And hopefully they will be approved for SNAP for as long as they need it, and that will remove even one small worry. The cold wind is blowing in more customers so I greet more customers with a warm smile. Oh, and I managed to move some merchandise from my table, too. We are all here to help, right?
--Cindy Jones, SNAP Outreach Coordinator
Iowa Food Bank Association is looking for individuals interested in volunteering to offer sign up assistance for the SNAP program. Please contact Lindsey Haley at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.