Melanie Hickcox and Bree Broadus work together here in Mid-Missouri. Melanie is the SNAP Project Manager for Feeding Missouri and Bree is the SNAP Outreach Coordinator for The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri
They both work to provide access to SNAP benefits, otherwise known as food stamps, to inmates getting ready to reenter society – even helping people with paperwork and applications before they’re released.
They spoke about why food stamp access is so important – especially among this vulnerable population.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.
Melanie Hickcox: We actually started doing prison outreach probably back in 2013, I'd say. It just felt like kind of a natural sort of transition to reach out to the Department of Corrections and see if they were interested in having us come out and do SNAP outreach, and we were very pleased that they have been excellent to work with. They've been very accommodating and very helpful.
Bree Broadus: The facilities that we visit, they have a pre-release program and the individuals running that pre-release program have been so great, you know, they really do want to see these individuals go home and have as many resources as possible.
Because of maybe the lack of education or the lack of knowing the guidelines – that keeps a lot of individuals from wanting to go through the hustle and bustle of going down to the DSS [Department of Social Services] office and applying.
So, just educating them… I think us going to the correctional centers and doing it with them just makes it one less thing that they have to dread or stress over. They feel very secure that their applications are going to be submitted.
Melanie: So, in the state of Missouri, there are still some restrictions on people that have drug felonies. At one point, there was a lifetime ban in the state where if you had any kind of drug felony, you could not receive food stamps.
So obviously, there are quite a few individuals that are incarcerated that have drug felony charges. So, they're concerned a lot of times about whether or not they're going to be eligible, and the Family Support Division at DSS actually reviews each case on a case-by-case basis. So, there's really not just a set standard rule, and we've seen people that received food stamps that have various charges.
It's not easy to have to kind of deal with that part of the of the application. A lot of times people…the majority, I'd say 99.9% of the time, they're charge has nothing to do with a food stamp related drug felony. So, there's nothing to do with that, and it's usually just a possession charge – usually small amounts.
Bree: Can I just say that everybody needs food? Food is a necessity.
Bree: It's a need. It's not a want. So, regardless of what you were incarcerated for, when you come home, you've done your time, you should be able to eat – especially if it had nothing to do with food stamps. If you were not violating or breaking the rule of food stamps, I feel everybody deserves to eat.
And if you don't have a job, or something lined up to be able to eat, there's great programs such as the Food Bank, but they also would need to access food stamps as well.
Do you understand $181 for one person a month is not a lot for food? It's really not a lot for food. Even the max at $197 per person is not enough food. They need all the help that they can get when they're coming back home and being re-entered into their communities.
Food Stamps is awesome, and I do not feel that individuals who have been incarcerated or that are currently incarcerated should be affected in a negative way and not be able to qualify for food stamps.
This piece was reported and produced by Jamie Hobbs.