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SNAP Addresses Food Needs.....and More

Deb_Maxwell_and_Sandy_Osmanski_work with_SNAP_clients

People are malnourished in our country.  In the United States food insecurity in households with children has reached the highest rates on record. 14 million children are hungry.  (Source:  Caitlin Welsh, Director of the Global Food Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington, DC, 7-21-20.)

How to respond?  In the Erie area donations to food pantries, soup kitchens, and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania are certainly welcome. The work of the agencies involved is well-known and trusted.  

Caitlin Welsh, a speaker for the Jefferson Educational Society on food insecurity, has spoken of the need to also become informed about and supportive of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  According to Welsh, food banks are meant to be a stopgap response for people experiencing food needs.  They are not meant to be a long-term program to meet long term needs.  SNAP is intended to be the safety net program. 

SBEC has two staff members who work with SNAP-referred clients.  Deb Maxwell is working with those in Clarion, Forest, Warren, and Venango Counties; Sandy Osmanski in Erie and Crawford Counties.  Deb and Sandy are helping their participants understand and access the benefits available to them to meet their food needs through SNAP.  Their assistance in navigating through the process is invaluable.  

In addition, the program administered by SBEC is designed “to move clients toward family economic stability”.  Goal: The client will no longer be dependent on SNAP.  The program provides guidelines, criteria to be met, and limitations. This requires that Sandy and Deb offer intense case management, initiate conversations about possible career pathways, explore courses and credentialing opportunities, offer practical instruction, provide employment coordination, and serve as cheerleaders for clients.  

Although SNAP is a recent addition to the programming at SBEC, Sandy and Deb have experienced the accomplishments and gratitude of participants.  

Sandy commented on the numerous challenges and obstacles her SNAP participants need to face and overcome.   She was surprised at the huge impact of having “low education and a lack of technology” on their desire to pursue further education.  Their lack of ability to effectively use phones and computers presents other problems.

One of Sandy’s clients wrote: “I have spent years caring for my family but have grown to want to better my life not only for me but for my child. That’s why I set my mind to being motivated to obtain a job…. I am proud of myself and love the company I am working for currently.  I plan to stay. I have built a lot of confidence from where I was.  I hardly had any.  Now, looking back, I have more.”  

He continues, “Thank you for being my caseworker -- for still being here -- as I continue my journey.  Thank you for seeing the potential in me and encouraging me so that I don’t need to be pushed to do something but now I have someone who can just say they’re proud of me…”

Deb worked with someone who was interested in obtaining her CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) certificate and wanted to work with geriatric patients.  Deb’s client, Ann, was hired to work in a nursing home but, due to the restrictions of Covid-19, CNA classes were repeatedly cancelled. The nursing home trusted that Ann could take and pass the CNA test without taking the classes, which she did.  Since the hours she worked counted for her clinical requirement Ann received her certificate.  

She wrote: “This is the first time in this program, and I need to tell you that this program has changed my life. … Deb has helped me become a Certified Nursing Assistant.  She has helped me with information and, further, her program has helped me reach my goal to become a CNA.  I am truly hoping that this program will remain open to help others like me, and that they will reach their own goals and a new career like I did.”

We at SBEC share your hope, Ann, and will do all we can to make it happen through programs like SNAP.  SNAP responds to the immediate need for nutrition assistance and provides the opportunity to prepare for life-enhancing jobs that pay a living wage.

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