Volunteer as a SNAP/Food Stamp Outreach Specialist with the D.C. EITC Campaign!
We are gearing up for our 2017 SNAP/Food Stamp Outreach Campaign with the DC Earned Income Tax Credit Campaign. We are seeking enthusiastic volunteers interested in conducting SNAP/Food Stamp outreach at low-income tax preparation sites on a weekly basis from February to April of 2017. Follow this link to register (scroll down and choose "SNAP/Food Stamp Outreach Volunteer Specialist"). Download the 2017 flyer (pdf).
Volunteers are asked to commit to a weekly three-to-four hour shift at a tax site for the duration of tax season (approximately 11 weeks). Shifts are available on weekends and evenings, and no previous experience with SNAP is required. All volunteers must attend a training, to be scheduled for mid-January 2017. Questions? Email Krista Stanoch at email@example.com.
To learn more about who is eligible for the EITC, and site locations and hours of operation, visit the D.C. EITC Campaign website.
Promoting Savings at Tax Time: SNAP Outreach Edition (New America Blog, 2012)
Previous Tax Season brings SNAP Outreach to D.C. Residents
D.C. Hunger Solutions recently completed another year of successful partnership with the D.C. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) campaign to connect low income tax filers to food stamps, now known as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The DC EITC Campaign connects low-income District residents to the DC Earned Income Tax Credit and other tax benefits by providing free tax preparation to low-income District residents at VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) tax sites throughout the D.C. metro area from late February through tax day in mid-April.
SNAP outreach at VITA sites is a natural fit. Thousands of District residents visit VITA sites to complete their taxes, and coordinating SNAP outreach at these sites while clients are waiting to meet with volunteer tax preparers is a win-win. SNAP participation in D.C. is low among the working poor - only 60 percent of eligible households with a working member are on SNAP, according to USDA. A family connected with EITC and SNAP could receive over $8,000 in benefits to support their family.
The key to DCHS’ successful SNAP outreach model at tax sites, now in its seventh year, is trained outreach volunteers. These volunteers learn how to promote the SNAP program to residents, prescreen individuals for eligibility, explain the application process, and help residents complete an application, all while residents wait to have their taxes prepared. Additionally, by partnering with the Economic Security Administration (the state agency in D.C. that administers SNAP), D.C. Hunger Solutions submits SNAP applications directly to the agency on behalf of applicants. This completes a significant first step of the application process for clients, and makes them more likely to follow through on the rest of the process than if they would have had to submit the application on their own.
For the last tax season, DCHS recruited more than 40 volunteers to provide information on SNAP and other food resources to the clients at seven D.C. VITA tax sites. Each volunteer was required to attend a three-hour training with D.C. Hunger Solutions. They then began volunteering in late February of 2016 once a week at one of four tax sites in D.C. throughout the 11-week tax season until the sites closed on April 15.
The 2016 SNAP Outreach campaign was a success. Volunteers contributed nearly 450 hours of their time to distribute over 1,400 materials on food resources, prescreen 1,000 people for SNAP, and assist nearly 200 people with completing a SNAP application.
First, the SNAP outreach campaign increased awareness of the program among D.C. residents whether or not they qualified for, or in some cases, already received SNAP. While some residents had negative feelings about SNAP initially, after conversing with volunteers they were able to understand the program more thoroughly. Even those who did not need or qualify for SNAP received information on local food resources to share with others who might benefit, and often expressed words of gratitude for the gesture of service. Furthermore, volunteers noted that while some people definitely qualified, they did not feel comfortable applying for various reasons. It’s true that more people actually qualify for SNAP than apply; these stories demonstrate how targeted outreach campaigns are an opportunity to debunk misconceptions or stigmas about SNAP prevalent in the community.
Another success this year was our collection of 80+ stories about SNAP and food hardship. We continued to implement SNAP participant surveys at tax sites to not only do outreach for new SNAP recipients, but also learn from current SNAP recipients regarding their experiences with the application process, their opinion of the program, and their thoughts on improving SNAP. We plan to feature their stories in local advocacy efforts to strengthen and support the program.
In addition to clients, the SNAP Outreach/EITC campaign partnership proved to be a valuable opportunity for volunteers. Volunteers learned about the importance of SNAP and obstacles to enrolling.
- One said “Before volunteering, I did not know anything about how to qualify for food stamps.” They are also sensitized to the challenges that people face putting food on the table. “This experience was very valuable practice in approaching strangers and discussing a sensitive issue. I was happy to find that the vast majority of people who I approached were appreciative of the offer, whether or not they wanted to discuss their personal situation. I also appreciated getting to know a part of the city that I’ve never visited or worked in before.”
- Another volunteer, who works on food access issues for her job, noted “Spending my days advocating for funds and programs to help end domestic hunger, I’m often several steps removed from the clients we ultimately served. This experience provides me with the opportunity to talk to those who...directly benefit from the work I do every day, and helps to remind me why I am doing the work I do.”
D.C. Hunger Solutions would like to thank each and every one of our volunteers for donating their time and enthusiasm to the cause for the last tax season. We’d also like to thank Community Tax Aid and Capital Area Asset Builders, the two local nonprofits who coordinate the D.C. EITC Campaign, for their continued partnership, and congratulate them on a successful campaign this past tax season. Finally, we’d like to thank the D.C. Economic Security Administration, which administers the SNAP/Food Stamp Program in D.C., for their partnership and support of this effort.