As a result of the recent natural disasters affecting the southern and central regions of the country, many families may be in need of emergency food assistance. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), in partnership with the States and faith-based and nonprofit community, stands ready to help connect people facing disasters with the food help they need. In most cases, this means that traditional income and eligibility requirements are relaxed so that people who have lost food, are unable to store food safely, or who have temporarily lost income as a result of the disaster may receive assistance.
In fact, between FY 2006 - 2010 over 6.5 million people received approximately $1.3 billion in Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits. We'll explain more about D-SNAP benefits below.
FNS provides food assistance to those in need in areas affected by a disaster. This Federal assistance is in addition to that provided by State and local governments. Here are some of the FNS Disaster Assistance Programs:
FNS can authorize the issuance of D-SNAP when the President declares a major disaster with individual assistance. States must request that FNS allow them to issue emergency benefits in areas affected by a disaster. FNS works closely with States to prepare plans for D-SNAP.
- People who might not ordinarily qualify for SNAP may be eligible for D-SNAP if they had expenses related to protecting, repairing, or evacuating their homes; or if they have lost income as a result of the disaster.
- People who are already participating in the regular SNAP may be eligible for additional benefits under the D-SNAP.
- Disaster benefits are provided like regular program benefits - through an EBT card that can be used at authorized food retailers to buy food.
Under the National Response Framework, FNS provides USDA Foods to disaster relief agencies to feed people at shelters and mass feeding sites. States can also, with FNS approval, release USDA Foods to disaster relief agencies to distribute directly to households that are in need. Such direct distribution takes place when normal commercial food supply channels, such as grocery stores, have been disrupted, damaged or destroyed, or are unable to function.
Although the WIC Program is not designed to be a disaster assistance program, and therefore is not considered a first line of defense, WIC policies are designed to allow State agencies flexibility in program design and administration to support continuation of benefits to participants during times of natural or other disasters.
Program participants who live in an area where a weather-related disaster has occurred, or is about to occur, and have been asked to leave home with very little advance notice, may still be able to receive WIC benefits. WIC participants in this situation are called "evacuees" and have been designated as being at special nutrition risk and therefore will receive high priority for certification.
For complete information on FNS Disaster Programs, visit /disasters/disaster.htm.