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Emily Upchurch SNAP Spotlight

June 15, 2018 | Newsletter

Food Banks like ours are vital tools in the fight against hunger, but we aren’t the only piece of the hunger-fighting puzzle. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which used to be known as food stamps, provides flexible, efficient, and impactful relief from food insecurity to millions of Americans. Since October, SNAP has had a champion at Food Bank of Iowa.

Emily Upchurch, SNAP Outreach Specialist, is zeroed in on her work: signing up qualified Iowans to receive SNAP benefits. Over the past eight months, Emily has become an expert on the program—especially the signup process—and the good that it does for our neighbors in need. She has also become an expert on the challenges inherent in the process.

“The reaction I often get from clients is that it’s not worth it; they’ve heard that it only provides $15 per month, and that isn’t worth the red tape,” said Upchurch. “Beyond that, some clients are hesitant to work with the Department of Human Services, and some perceive SNAP as having a stigma.”

In reality, SNAP provides an average benefit of more than $110 per person, which can be used to purchase groceries throughout Iowa. That purchasing power brings economic benefits with it; every $1 in SNAP used in Iowa creates $1.80 in economic activity, including supporting local jobs.

The best benefit of SNAP, though, is that it can be used to fit the needs of the client. For example, a family who receives nonperishable goods from a local food pantry could use their SNAP dollars to purchase fresh produce and meat. If there are young children in the household, they may use their SNAP dollars to purchase baby food.

Since she started her work, Upchurch said her eyes have been opened.

“It’s very humbling,” said Upchurch. “Until you are literally talking to people every day who are struggling, you don’t know how much of an issue poverty is in America.”

Each week, Upchurch visits eight to 10 partners, talking with clients and helping them begin the process of signing up for SNAP. Since she completed training in December, Upchurch has helped 643 individuals access SNAP. That’s 643 Iowans who are receiving better nutrition – children, seniors, veterans, Iowans with disabilities, families. For Upchurch, it’s just the beginning.

Danny Akright |

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