How veterans can access SNAP benefits

Learn how MSU Extension can help military veterans access the services and resources they deserve.

Two paper bags of produce and groceries.
Unsplash/Maria Lin Kim

Michigan is home to over 550,000 military veterans who volunteered to serve our country and keep us safe. Unfortunately, veterans sometimes struggle in the transition from military service to civilian life. The Veteran Outreach Team at MSU Extension is dedicated to supporting veterans by providing a myriad of resources, information, assistance and outreach to help them transition to civilian life successfully. One way the team has done this is by helping veterans access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through outreach to the veteran community. SNAP helps individuals experiencing food insecurity gain support and access to nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, in order to improve their health and quality of life.

Military veterans face a high risk for food insecurity, with approximately one in four who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars reporting problems with food security, according to a 2015 article in Public Health Nutrition. Veterans are utilizing SNAP benefits but at a rate significantly lower than other demographic groups. A recent National Health Interview Survey showed that 59% of eligible veterans were not enrolled in the food assistance program. There are various reasons for this, including a lack of awareness of the SNAP program, stigma towards the program, and an absence of specific outreach materials targeting military veterans. To address this, MSU Extension partnered with the Food Bank Council of Michigan to create a SNAP for Vets outreach program, funded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

In alignment with MSU’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the SNAP for Vets program is open to anyone who has ever served in the U.S. Armed Forces. This outreach is inclusive, increases accessibility and fosters a culture of supportive communities to ensure veterans feel valued and empowered. Culturally relevant and tailored specifically for veterans, SNAP outreach materials are used to explain and destigmatize the program. A team of diverse MSU Extension staff, including Kai GritterSteve Whittington (Army veteran), and Jim Yates (Marine veteran), promote the program statewide and are trained as MI Bridges Navigators to provide enrollment assistance, if needed.

To date, the SNAP for Vets outreach team has exceeded grant objectives and:

  • Distributed over 20,000 outreach materials statewide
  • Hosted outreach tables/presented at over 100 events
  • Reached about 1,400 veteran service providers
  • Reached over 2,800 veterans

The team engages with veteran service providers at Veterans’ Affairs clinics, American Legion halls, Veteran Community Action Teams (VCATS), food pantries and veteran community events. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, such outreach has transitioned to virtual spaces, and the team regularly shares information and resources to veterans and veteran service providers electronically. They also mail SNAP for Vets brochures and promotional items (e.g., vegetable seed packets, stress balls, ear buds) upon request. If you are a veteran or veteran service provider, and would like any of these materials mailed out for free, email us (include name/address/desired amount).

The veteran outreach team also regularly shares information and resources online via social media. Be sure to subscribe to the MSU Extension Veteran Outreach YouTube channel and like their Facebook page.

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