Closing Houston SNAP Gap Could Reach 190,000 More Eligible People

A new report endorsed by a broad cross-section of Houston leaders provides a roadmap for Houston to access more federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food dollars to combat hunger, improve health and well-being, and boost the local economy.  Currently, more than one in five eligible people in Houston are missing out on SNAP benefits.  The report estimates that closing the Houston SNAP gap would bring a total of $110 million per year to over 190,000 more eligible Houstonians and generate $196 million more in local economic activity. The report will be released at a press conference October 18, at 10:30 a.m.

The report was created by a task force composed of food bankers, service providers, educators, students, faith-based groups, retailers, seniors’ groups, and other stakeholders led by Houston Food Bank CEO Brian Greene and CHILDREN AT RISK CEO Dr. Bob Sanborn.  The Task Force was convened with technical assistance from national experts Food Research & Action Center and The Food Trust, and with support from Target.

The Task Force recommends strategies to educate more eligible people about SNAP and assist them in obtaining SNAP benefits. These range from simplifying SNAP agency procedures and adopting neighborhood-based strategies to educate people and help them navigate the SNAP enrollment process, to improving access to affordable food, including for people with mobility issues. In the near future, the Task Force calls for steps to streamline the SNAP enrollment process for seniors; to augment SNAP disaster planning; and to explore ways to improve SNAP benefit distribution.

“Contrary to what many people think, most of the families struggling with food insecurity have jobs,” says Houston Food Bank President and CEO Brian Greene.  “They’re just not making enough money to get by. We need SNAP to help working families fill that gap.”

“Children should not ever be hungry or worry about when their next meal will be,” says Dr. Bob Sanborn, president and CEO of CHILDREN AT RISK. “Children that are not hungry and have eaten nutritious meals are healthier, have stronger brain function and have a better chance at success in school and beyond.”

“We’re proud of the public-private partnership that allows SNAP to serve our customers efficiently and with dignity,” says Texas Retailers Association Food Council Chairwoman Kathy Sweidel-Caton of Lewis Food Town, Inc. “We know that our customers may go through difficult times, whether due to economic downturn, personal issues, or a natural disaster.  After Hurricane Harvey, Disaster SNAP brought critical resources that helped many Houston families during the recovery. Adopting best practices in SNAP remains important to Houston going forward, and representing Texas retailers by continuing our work with the SNAP Task Force can only improve distribution of benefits to those who need it most.”

“Our partner organizations see over 200,000 people each year who are making the choice between food or housing and food or healthcare,” says Sharon Zachary, CEO of Alliance of Community Assistance Ministries.  “As we work with families toward their overall financial stability, SNAP is a quick and effective temporary support for families in need, reducing food insecurity and freeing up resources for other basic needs. We will continue to support our partnerships in helping eligible families connect with SNAP.”

“Hunger undermines students’ ability to learn, whether that is in grade school or in higher education,” says Dr. Daphne Hernandez, professor at the University of Houston.  On college campuses in Houston—and across the U.S.—too many college students are struggling with hunger and homelessness.  SNAP can help more of those low-income students have the food they need while they get the education to attain financial security long-term.”