Application Assistance Volunteers connect seniors to SNAP!

by Celia Meredith

A few months ago, we put a call out for volunteers to “help end senior hunger” and connected with five volunteers in Portland who were up to the task.

Last year, the SNAP Outreach Team at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon partnered with Store-to-Door for a SNAP Application Assistance Program. You can read more about the experience volunteers had here. We continued this program this year by partnering with Meals On Wheels People. Our volunteers visited meal sites throughout Washington and Multnomah Counties to share information about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as offer application assistance.

Volunteers shared information and materials with more than 1,000 people and had individual conversations with 200 people. One of the benefits of having volunteers visit meal sites multiple times throughout this program is that we were able to connect with people many times and have in-depth conversations about SNAP and food assistance. Something that is very common in outreach is that people may have misconceptions about SNAP – particularly with older Oregonians as they may have outdated information about the program. SNAP has changed a lot over the years, and the number one goal of our application assistance work is to ensure that people have all the information they need to make the decision that is right for them.

Beyond clarifying what SNAP is and who it is for, our volunteers helped lower barriers during the application process for Meals on Wheels clients. Two of our volunteers provided assistance in Spanish and Vietnamese. All of our volunteers followed up with clients on a weekly basis to make sure they were moving through the application process. Volunteers were also able to assist clients with scanning documents and gathering necessary verification materials for their eligibility interview with DHS.

In Washington County, we partnered with BEC, the Benefits Enrollment Center through Washington County Disability, Aging and Veteran Services. Working with BEC meant that we were able to refer clients in Washington County to a group of trained volunteers who could assist clients apply for not only SNAP, but Medicaid, energy assistance, property tax relief, prescription help, and Medicare savings program.

Our five volunteers were able to connect directly with around 200 people. Between offering SNAP application assistance on site and making referrals to BEC, we were able to assist 47 people in applying for SNAP and as of today, 8 people have enrolled in the program!

We are very thankful for the hard work of our volunteers and our partnerships with BEC and Meals on Wheels that helped us connect with seniors throughout our community and assist them in applying for SNAP.