Benefits with Perks

Mediaon June 27th, 2017Comments Off on Benefits with Perks

Bob Grimes had worked for the local fire department in Bethel, Ohio since he was 22 years old. He loved his job and told everyone he wanted to be a fire-fighter until the day he died.  However, in April 2017 he suffered a massive heart attack and stroke. The doctors told him he might never walk again, let alone work as a fire fighter.  As he lay in his hospital bed, Bob panicked thinking about his family. He had six children and one grandchild in his care. His oldest child was 19, the youngest was six and the grandbaby was nine months old. Bob had always been the primary breadwinner. His wife who had a chronic back problem had never worked.  As weeks passed, it became obvious that they would have to make some changes since they were struggling to make ends meet.  They moved in with his mother-in-law since they could not afford house payments any more. His wife and his oldest daughter found themselves small seasonal jobs.  One of Bob’s biggest concerns was being able to put food on the table every day.  Healthy and nutritious foods can be expensive when one has a large family.

It was at this juncture that Bob contacted the Benefit Call Center at the Freestore Foodbank to ask about applying to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). “The whole process took a little over a week. The staff at the Freestore Foodbank not only helped me with SNAP, but also gave me suggestions about how to get my life back on track. What I appreciated most was that they were professional, courteous and understanding,” Bob comments.  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program alleviated Bob’s concern about whether he would be able to pay his grocery bill. It also helped him provide wholesome, nutritious meals to his family. “I hate being disabled and unemployed. It breaks my heart that my wife had to start working in my place.  But thanks to the support given by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program I don’t worry anymore about whether my family is staying nourished. I am so grateful for that support,” he comments. The Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that Bob gets as a part of the Supplemental Nutrition Program allows him to shop just like anyone else. He especially loves the Produce Perks that come with using the EBT card. Produce Perks are incentive tokens given to customers who use the EBT card to shop at participating farmers markets and they offer a dollar-for-dollar match up to $10 spent at the market. “The Produce Perks make it possible for me to stretch my dollar at the grocery store. I don’t think I would be able to keep my family nourished without this additional benefit,” Bob remarks.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program. Close to 70% of the participants of this program are families like Bob’s with children. More than a quarter consists of households with seniors or people with disabilities. Second to unemployment insurance, SNAP is the most responsive federal program providing additional assistance during economic crises such as when an individual is laid off, injured or disabled. It provides vital nutritional support for low-wage working families to ensure that nutritious meals are available to everyone. “It is important to note that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is truly supplemental. It is meant to help individuals and families who have a hard time making ends meet. Many of them are working multiple jobs that pay minimum wage. This program is truly a supplement that helps us take care of people,” says Kam McKenzie, Senior Coordinator of the Benefit Call Center.

The Freestore Foodbank opened the Benefit Call Center in order to provide more efficient support to clients. The Benefit Call Center of the Freestore Foodbank, located at the Customer Connection Center on Liberty Street, operates from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm Monday – Friday.  Benefit Enrollment Specialists who work in the Call Center perform several functions. They answer the phone and help individuals and families sign up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  They also help clients take advantage of other critical services offered by the Freestore Foodbank such assistance with rent and utilities as well as referrals to other agencies for housing, hot meals and furniture . In addition, some of the Benefit Enrollment Specialists spend time in other locations as a resource – answering questions and helping clients sign up for assistance.

An average call to the Benefit Call Center takes about ten minutes.  The Freestore Foodbank specialists then submit all required documentation to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The applicants go through an extremely thorough verification process before they are approved for assistance – submitting identification information for themselves and family members and pay stubs if they hold jobs. It takes about a week for the application to get processed.

The Benefit Call Center at the Freestore Foodbank receives close to 500 calls per month. Kam and her staff work diligently to provide prompt service to her clients and also to preserve their dignity and privacy. “We care about the nutrition and overall wellness of low-income families and individuals in this country. We also want to make sure they feel comfortable and that they are treated with dignity and respect throughout the process,” Kam remarks. To learn more click on http://freestorefoodbank.org/get-help/benefit-call-center/ or for assistance call (513) 381-SNAP(7627)