SNAP provides food assistance to meet nutritional needs

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 16, 2016

Many people living in Pearl River County aren’t able to meet the nutritional needs of their households.
According to data from Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap project, there are about 9,950 people with food insecurity living in Pearl River County.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that food insecurity is the inability to provide enough food for an active and healthy life.
Often times, food insecurity is not constant, states Feeding America. Sometimes households have to choose between providing quality food or paying other bills.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program, formerly called the food stamp program, was established to give monthly aid to low income households, states the Mississippi Department of Human Services website.
The program is federally funded and spread to Mississippi counties by the MDHS.
SNAP is designed to supplement regular household incomes to reduce or eliminate food insecurity, states the MDHS website.
Gladys Cruz, a resident of Pearl River County, has been using SNAP off and on since her son was born 20 years ago.
At 65 years old, she is retired and relies on SNAP assistance and other assistance programs to make ends meet.
“I’ve been using SNAP for four years,” said Cruz.
Cruz is also on disability after surviving breast cancer, a stroke, pneumonia and diabetes.
She receives $125 a month in food assistance, which she supplements by going to the Senior Center of South Mississippi where they serve hot lunches to senior citizens at no cost.
“They don’t charge us. If they did we couldn’t afford it,” said Cruz.
She worked as a secretary and later in the passport office in New Orleans for years before Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home in Chalmette.
“When the hurricane did us in, we lost everything and they had to give us food stamps,” said Cruz.
Cruz, her son and her mother relocated to Picayune.
“In Picayune, I was on SNAP and working 20-30 hours a week,” said Cruz. “I was working whatever job I could get.”
She worked in a daycare for a time and later washed dishes at local restaurants.
Now that she is retired and living alone, the money she gets from Social Security payments isn’t enough to adequate food, said Cruz.
“We have to rely on food stamps, we don’t have a choice,” she said.
She thanks God for the SNAP program, saying the employees always treat her fairly and with respect and answer her questions.
To qualify for SNAP, households must have low wages, be unemployed or work part-time, receive other financial assistance like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or SSI, or be elderly or disabled while living on a small income.
There is a pre-screening tool available from the Food and Nutrition Service at
After the application is completed and verified, beneficiaries can receive SNAP benefits within 30 days of the dated application.
The Pearl River County DHS Economic Assistance Office is located at 153 Savannah Millard Rd. in Poplarville. Their phone number is 601-403-2424.
AARP also works to encourage seniors to enroll in the SNAP program. Feeding the Gulf Coast, a branch of Feeding America, also provides assistance for residents of South Mississippi who are seeking to register for the program or help from local food banks.

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About Julia Arenstam

Staff Writer

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