A Day in the Life of the SNAP Mobile
The North Texas Food Bank’s social service case assistant navigators provide application help to those facing hunger in rural communities.
Joel Sauceda and Jonathan Brooks had just finished setting up the North Texas Food Bank SNAP Mobile one recent Thursday morning when a neighbor drove up looking for assistance.
She told Jonathan that she applied for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Medicare Savings Program but was having trouble determining if her applications had been reviewed.
“No problem. I’m going to look this up for you,” Jonathan said, offering a chair so the woman could sit down with him as he pulled up her case with HHS online. After several calls, Jonathan found that she was already receiving SNAP benefits but was still waiting to hear back on her Medicare Savings Program application. He was able to escalate that application for quick review.
“Thank you so much,” the woman told him, explaining that she’d tried to complete a similar process but had trouble navigating the system by phone on her own. “I appreciate y’all so much.”
Helping neighbors like this is exactly what the NTFB SNAP Mobile was built for. A mobile office unveiled earlier this year thanks to support from Tom Thumb/the Albertsons Foundation and the Kalman and Ida Wolens Foundation, the SNAP Mobile is staffed with a team who travel to isolated communities experiencing high rates of food insecurity within the Food Bank’s 13-county service area.
Powered by a generator, the SNAP Mobile is equipped with private desks and Wi-Fi so neighbors can meet with staff and receive assistance with or complete applications for SNAP, the Medicare Savings Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid and other programs.
On this day, Joel and Jonathan had driven nearly two hours to reach Delta Hope House in Cooper, a town of just less than 2,000. Cooper has a small grocery store, but the cost of nutritious food is high there and the closest large supermarket and Wal-Mart are about 30 miles away, said Laura Gillean, Delta Hope House distribution director. Many of the neighbors they serve live on social security or tight budgets and simply can’t get to a larger city to shop.
While Delta Hope House provides food each month, assisting neighbors with obtaining SNAP and other benefits is crucial to closing the hunger gap. For each physical meal NTFB and its Feeding Network provide, SNAP is able to provide nine meals. Yet, 25 percent of eligible Texans do not participate in SNAP. That’s where Case Assistance Navigators like Jonathan and Joel come in.
“We’re helping with food, resources, or just putting a smile on their face,” Joel said, adding that neighbors often return asking for him after he’s assisted them with an application. “Hearing that helps me know that I am making a difference.”
Each SNAP application assisted during a SNAP Mobile visit equates to access of 733 meals while a renewed SNAP application equals 983 meals. In just the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2024, 71 applications have been completed, providing access to nearly 59,000 meals. Among Delta County neighbors NTFB serves, there has been a 900 percent increase in applications since SNAP Mobile began visiting regularly.
Along with traveling to Delta County twice a month, the SNAP Mobile also visits Hunt, Grayson and Lamar counties — all places with high needs that are not conducive to having a permanent NTFB Case Assistance Navigator on-site.
Each neighbor who visits with NTFB staff at the SNAP Mobile is not only provided with application assistance but also given the chance to receive referrals for other services and provided a snack pack that will ensure they have nutritious food to take home with them that day.
Jonathan said each case is different but that they are happy to help, whether they’re able to fully complete a new SNAP application or simply answer questions.
“Being someone who has their back in this process is something that I’m really proud to be a part of,” Jonathan said.
To find out more about the SNAP Mobile and its service area, click here.
Kathleen Petty is the communications manager for the North Texas Food Bank.