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Food Assistance Programs in Utah

Hundreds of Utah residents benefit from the food assistance programs offered by the state. Many of those recipients are women and children or families who fall below the federal poverty line. Through these food programs, Utah citizens are offered quality nutritional support, which in turn bolsters the state’s economy. A majority of the food program participants utilize the benefits issued through the state and federal food stamp program called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). However, Utah also offers assistance in the way of funding to women who are pregnant, or who have very young children, though a program called WIC. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and free or reduced cost meals at the public schools, are additional programs extended to some of Utah’s neediest residents. A majority of the households have children under the age of 18, with the second highest population coming from those who are over 60 years of age. Utah is committed to ending hunger among its citizens and offers many programs and support services for those hardest hit. The following is a brief overview of the programs available in Utah.

SNAP in Utah

SNAP is the largest provider of nutritional support for UT residents. Commonly referred to as the food stamp program, SNAP is issued to qualified residents whose incomes fall below the federal poverty level. The state’s program provides a listing of the eligible annual incomes and resources. The program determines qualification for the program primarily based on income but also considers the size of the household, citizenship and residency. Applications can be submitted online, by mail or in person at the nearest Department of Workforce Services (DWS). Some applications can be considered for expedited service, which means that benefits may be received in as little as seven days.

Once qualified, SNAP participants are issued a Horizon Card, which is a type of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. This card works much like a debit card. The card remains inactive until the user calls the HelpDesk to activate it. At this time, the user will also select a personal identification number (PIN). Participants can check the balance on the card via the state’s platform or through a local ATM machine. The cards are authorized to allow purchase of approved food items at any participating grocery store or food market. Some farmer’s markets also accept food stamps. Horizon card funds may not be used for such non-food items such as tobacco, alcohol, medicines, pet food or personal toiletry items. The program provides a complete list of approved food items when the card is issued. As a final requirement, able-bodied adults are required to have a job, be looking for a job or be willing to take work if it is offered.

Free or Reduced Cost Meals in Utah Schools

This program is administrated by the state government in Utah, but is a federally funded program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) has been around since the mid-1940s and is offered throughout the entire nation through nonprofit schools and child care facilities. Applications for the program are sent home with the children and are returned to the school. The application is taken for verification of income and household size. Qualified students are issued credits to be used which will offset the cost of the meals. Schools are given the option of expanding the NSLP program to also include breakfast. The national program began to cover afterschool snack reimbursement programs for schools and nonprofit organizations who offer afterschool and enrichment programs.

Women Infant and Children (WIC) Programs in Utah

The Women, Infant and Children program is a federal program that is administered on the state and local levels by the Utah Department of Health. The food program is offered to low-income women who are pregnant, post-partum, nursing or who have very young children. Unlike some government programs, which will not allow combination, Utah’s WIC program can be combined with SNAP benefits. The program benefits do not last indefinitely and are issued only until the family is no longer classified as low-income or the child turns five years old. Qualification for the program is based on the family’s income and number of people in the household (pregnant women count as two). In order to be admitted to the program, a woman will need to visit a health clinic and receive a WIC appointment. Applicants will have to provide proof of identity, income, proof of a child’s immunization and address. Children must also accompany any woman who is applying for the program. Utah does not ask for immigration status in order to participate in this program.

Utah Temporary Assistance to Needy Families

In Utah, temporary assistance can be offered to families who find themselves struggling to make ends meet. The program offers financial assistance which can be used to purchase food for the family. This program is administrated by the Department of Workforce Services. Cash assistance is offered but requires program recipients to also participate in an employment plan, whose goal is gainful employment and eventual self-sufficiency. This program is especially designed for families who have children and aims to keep families in the family home with both parents. Additional support is offered through educational counseling, parent workshops and homelessness prevention.

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