COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Living on a limited budget can be difficult for anybody but especially for those who rely on public assistance to help put food on the table.
According to the Mississippi Department of Human Services, nearly 650 thousand people throughout the state received benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP in 2012. SNAP provides assistance and support services to needy families to enable them to become self sufficient.
“The SNAP program is set up to help alleviate hunger and also malnutrition and help people have a little more purchase power with their food,” says James Sutherland, Director at the Lowndes County Mississippi Department of Human Services.
Though the SNAP program was designed to supplement a family’s income, the reality is it may be the *only* means of buying food for many people, even those who are employed.
“We have people that have never been here to people who’ve been here before and they worked. Then something happened with that business and they had to come back. So we’re seeing a different assortment of personnel coming in that need help,” says Sutherland.
The average monthly SNAP benefit for a single person was $123 per month in 2012. With food prices soaring and obesity rates climbing, eating healthy can be a challenge.
“Some of the challenges they may face is finding food that they can purchase with in their budget. A lot of people don’t have the time these days to cook meals,” says Dietician Stephanie Markham at Baptist Memorial Golden Triangle.
But Grant says it’s all about food choices.
“Actually current research is now showing it’s not more expensive to eat healthy. You just have to have the facts and to know how to make better choices when your shopping with a limited budget,” says Markham.
MDHS Director James Sutherland emphasizes that the assistance the agency provides is meant to help people get back on their feet.
“This is a hand up. We’re not here to hand out money and stuff like that. We want to help people get to where they can be self sufficient. So it’s a hand-up program to get you going, to get you on your feet, keep you going unitl you can get something that will take care of your family or take care of you,” says Sutherland.
The department also offers participants education classes on how to make healthy food choices on a budget.
For more information about economic assistance and the SNAP program, call 800-948-3050 or 601-359-4796.
Tomorrow Part 2 of the “Food Fright” series will air at 6pm. LaMonica Peters will talk more about SNAP Education and speak with a local mom and her struggle to keep food on the table.