So what does Swine Flu (H1N1) have to do with Food Insecurity?
May 4, 2009 § 2 Comments
Advocacy and Online Marketing Director
When a Texas school district shut its doors for a couple of weeks as a precaution for the H1N1 (Swine) Flu this past week, parents whose children rely on the free and reduced price school lunches faced an additional challenge.
How will these parents financially support unplanned child care and keep their children well nourished for two weeks?
Disasters, from hurricanes to pandemics, interrupt employment and sever access to human service programs. Pandemic flu preparation and response methods, such as stockpiling food and water, pose a significant hardship for those struggling to have the basic necessities each day. While pandemic flu does not discriminate, low-income people are particularly vulnerable in the event of an outbreak.
In addition to creating their own disaster response plan (read ours here), Food Banks work closely with federal, state, and local officials in distributing food, communicating information about food stamp access during a disaster and helping to expedite disaster food assistance through D-SNAP.
What is D-SNAP?
The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) provides replacement benefits for SNAP recipients during disaster. Eligibility criteria are broadened, and a streamlined application and issuance process extends benefits to households that would not ordinarily be eligible for SNAP. D-SNAP, like SNAP, is fully federally-funded and administered by states. Because federal nutrition programs are entitlements, they can respond quickly and effectively without waiting for further legislative action.
While D-SNAP has a proven track record of effective relief after hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters, the program needs improved flexibility so it can respond appropriately during a pandemic. Government and nonprofits will also need to work collaboratively and creatively to ensure we can meet the need. The Capital Area Food Bank has been in contact with legislative representatives to address those concerns and offer suggestions to ensure food security in the case of a pandemic flu outbreak.
A short personal story
I was an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Food Bank when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast. Since then, I have also been part of the Hurricane Ike response efforts at the Food Bank, where my role included increasing access to SNAP. As humbling of an experience it is to participate in disaster response here in Austin, I could not help but think of the many poor who were forgotten and disregarded. Our shared responsibility to nourish the hungry is even greater in moments of crisis.