A collaborative effort between our Mental Health and Recovery Advocate, Josh Mitchell, and Executive Director, Erin Boyle, to give you a walk through about food benefits in the Colorado area.
Applying for Food Assistance in Colorado
I don’t know about you, but when I go to the grocery store these days it can stress me out. Food prices are up, and nothing seems safe from inflation. I find myself scouring the grocery apps for coupons and looking for any way to keep spending lower. With everything going on with food prices, now is a good time to talk about food assistance.
Here in Colorado, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides support to individuals based on a few qualifications. Those qualifications include income, disability, family size, enrollment status, and work requirements. Most full time employment will take individuals above the maximum income, however part-time workers are often eligible for SNAP benefits. The income levels are listed here.
Something that is important to keep in mind is that SNAP is available if you are in between jobs and managing other bills. The application can be expedited if the applicant is low on cash due to losing work and paying other bills. This means that the county will try to get a SNAP approval within a week. This can be really helpful if you find yourself in between work, as you can keep the benefits until you find full-time work.
There are several different ways to apply for SNAP. Here is what is listed on the official SNAP site:
- Use the MyCOBenefits app on your smartphone. You can download the app from either the Apple or Android app store.
- Print the application of your choice below, fill it out and return it by mail, fax or in person to your county human services office.
- Call our SNAP outreach partner, Hunger Free Colorado, at 855.855.4626. They can help you complete an application over the phone. For more information on the outreach partners who can help provide application assistance, click here.
Once you are done applying, someone will review your application and schedule an interview. Completing the interview is essential to gain benefits. It may seem intimidating or frustrating to interview for these benefits, but the interview will mostly consist of confirming information from your application. If everything checks out with the interview you will receive a SNAP statement and card shortly after.
Use the Resources Around You
When I was working in a restaurant kitchen I was barely squeaking by on bills. I had to choose between food for me or my dog some days. (the dog, duh) And I missed out on basic health care like teeth cleaning, check ups, eye exams, etc. I don’t know if there was help then, but I know now that there are tons of opportunities that provide help for almost any situation.
This year I have had a lot of health issues. For anyone that has gone through that they know that even with health insurance the bills pile up quickly. On top of that you have to pay for the Rx and somehow manage time off from work to get it all taken care of. I currently work for CHOW and tell folks all the time about the resources available and decided it was time to take my own advice. This was hard. I really had to get over myself. My inner voice was saying, “you don’t need that, that’s for people with real problems.” That’s stigma! I’ve learned from working in mental health that that voice is lying. Tough times are tough times. I can’t compare my tough with someone else’s and make my decisions. I now say, “I’m struggling right now and this would make it easier. I’m going to try it.”
With food costs going up as quickly as my medical bills, I looked into the support in my community for help with food. I found many places that will help and require you to fill out some paperwork with your income and you find out if you are eligible. It turns out I wasn’t. I make a decent wage. However, even with that it’s not easy to get by when unexpected bills arise. There are other groups that require less.
For instance I used the We Don’t Waste’s Mobile Market.
From the We Don’t Waste Website:
In the Metro Denver area, there are approximately 50 food apartheids–neighborhoods that have been historically and presently discriminated against, where politics, racial injustice, and economic policy have shaped a landscape without access to affordable, fresh, and nutritious foods. People who live in these neighborhoods often rely on fast food and convenience stores for food, or they have to travel long distances to the closest grocery stores, which presents barriers for those without transportation or those who have mobility challenges.
Compounding this problem, many of these neighborhoods don’t have a food pantry, or the existing food pantries aren’t able to fully meet the community need (due to limited funding, staffing, storage capacity, etc.).
To address this problem, We Don’t Waste developed our Mobile Food Market initiative to reach further into the community, serving people with healthy, nutritious food, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, lean protein, and dairy.
Our markets are open to everyone, no matter what your circumstances are.
They have a very easy process, pre-register and answer some questions, so they know how much food to bring. Then show up to the market and take home the food you want. It was incredibly easy and I didn’t have to defend my situation.
When I arrived there was a long line and it moved pretty fast. They have many volunteers to get you checked in and get you food. They had all sorts of things from soda, to produce, to ready to eat food. As a rookie, I wasn’t prepared with bags or a cart. I would suggest this! Though they had boxes so I could still pick up all the food I needed. Additionally they have baby food, formula, diapers, books and dog food and toys.
The experience was painless, fruitful, and I got to chat with folks in line in the sunshine. The bottom line is, we all need help. There are great organizations doing great work to help. If you don’t utilize the resources they will likely go to waste. And the time spent organizing these things goes to waste.
We Don’t Waste is in the Denver, CO area but there are many similar groups out there. If you want help finding something near you, please reach out to Outreach@chowco.org.
This blog was written about food in specific, but CHOW had resources to connect you with help for finances (grants or advice), health insurance, finding a gym, sober activities, and so much more.
If you want to know more about the resources available to you, please email us.