This week, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled new  resources meant to foster increased participation and expanded access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

snap.jpgNew promotional materials entitled “We Welcome SNAP Benefits” will be displayed in participating retailers nationwide.  The program was formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.

“Underscoring that SNAP benefits are welcome, rather than merely accepted, signals an important change in the way both retailers and program participants view these benefits,” Vilsack said.

Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services made the announcement on Vilsack’s behalf to officials from the National Grocers Association (NGA), Food Marketing Institute (FMI), and Electronic Funds Transfer Association (EFTA).

Concannon also announced the launch of an online search tool that helps recipients locate SNAP-authorized stores near their homes and workplaces called the SNAP Retail Locator.  The tool allows program recipients, state eligibility workers, community organizers (such as food banks), and others in providing assistance to those in need. 

“These new tools will allow us to improve access and increase participation in SNAP, which serves as a vital resource to the most vulnerable Americans.  Breaking down barriers to participation will help the Obama Administration deliver on its goal of reducing hunger and improving nutrition across the country,” Vilsack said.

SNAP benefits, formerly known as Food Stamps, are now provided to recipients electronically.  The benefits help low income families buy healthy foods and provide an economic stimulus that strengthens communities.  

Research shows that every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates as much as $9.20 in economic activity.  Though benefits are federally funded, the program is administered by states which enables 97 percent of SNAP benefits to be redeemed by retailers in support of local economies within one calendar month.

grocery-shopping-featured.jpgOf the SNAP Retail Locator, Under Secretary Concannon said, “The SNAP Retail Locator will make it easier for SNAP participants, especially those who may be new and unfamiliar with the program, to gain access to food.  The new resource is another critical step in improving access to SNAP by providing participants with information to make more informed shopping choices.”

According to the USDA, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition-assistance programs, including SNAP and the school meal programs that touch lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year.  These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger.  The largest of these programs, SNAP puts healthy food on the table for 39.7 million people each month. 

The USDA’s FNS website has more information on SNAP.