The last two days, I've been met with mixed reactions as I explain why I'm doing the SNAP the Silence challenge. Some are excited to hear that we are trying to raise awareness about the challenges of low-income families in Montgomery County. Others seem to think that its disingenuous emphasizing that people don't live on $5/day. They have stressed that the program is a Supplemental program, which is what the S in SNAP represents. So I've decided to do some investigation to demystify the word.
To qualify for the SNAP program, a family of 4 needs to earn $30,000 gross according to the federal standards. In return, they will receive $668/month to buy food for their family-which is approximately $20/day for the family or $5/day per person. They may be able to utilize the rest of their income to buy food, but remember they still have to pay for housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, medical expenses, child care, toilet paper, etc.
So I suspect that the word Supplemental means it’s not supplementing their food budget but rather, their income to ensure that they can eat.
We have a lot to learn about how our low-income families are living around us. Each day that I participate in this challenge, I’m forced to do more than just eat off $5/day. I'm learning to research and explore what it really means to live with minimal means, leaving me face to face with numbers and stories that are uncomfortable to ignore. And by doing so, I'm no longer the same.
Ana L. van Balen is the Mid-County Regional Services Director for Montgomery County, Md. Follow her on twitter at @anavanbalen or at Mid-County Director's Blog.