Stretching food assistance dollars

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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - · Due to the government shutdown last month, the February SNAP benefits were distributed a month early in Jan. , meaning individuals and families must stretch their food assistance dollars more than 50 days through March 10th - 14th
· Given that the charitable food assistance network exists in large part because even during a normal month SNAP benefits are insufficient, it is expected that families may struggle more than usual with access to food towards the end of February and into the first few weeks of March.
· Compounding this increased need will be the challenges of paying for fuel during a cold winter and lack of school meals for children during the week of February vacation
· Members of the food assistance providers' network in Penobscot and Piscataquis met discuss how best to support individual and families

· It's not a matter of budgeting when you don't have enough to start with. Being mindful and careful of spending is ALWAYS important and is something those who utilize benefits have to do every month to make the benefits stretch any given month.

· Friends and neighbors check in on each other, help a neighbor in need, check in on seniors who may have missed the notice about the snap benefits or not understand the current balance on their card.

· Utilize your local food pantry and community dinners, they are aware, prepared, and understand this month and into early March may be more of a challenge.

Karen King Dover-Foxcroft Area Food Cupboard has some advice for people visiting a food pantry for the first time:

We are there to help. We think of those we serve as our friends and neighbors and the doors are open to anyone in need of some help. If it's your first time coming to a food pantry.

1. Call ahead - Find out when they are open. If it is during your work hours, ask if they can work with you to find another time for you to come or recommend other pantry close to your work
2. Find out when they are open and what to bring
3. Usually all you need is a photo ID
4. We want to find how we can best help you and what you need for your or any family members living in your home. We care about any allergies, health needs too. We take into consideration school vacations, holidays, the time of year, all of those things when we fill our pantries.
5. It gives us joy to help, that is why we are here and we hope anyone in need would feel comfortable to come

Additional resources https://www.gsfb.org/get-help/
www.mainefoodatlas.org http://www.mainefoodatlas.org
www.penquis.org http://www.penquis.org and 211
That is what they are there for are aware that things are tight