Oregon began the new millennium with the dubious distinction of being the hungriest state in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). As the state sought to expand outreach and enrollment into the food stamp program (later renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), it discovered several different approaches to maximize application assistance. The community fax model highlighted below is just one of these.
What did they do?
Local SNAP branch offices often collaborate with community partner organizations (e.g. food pantries) that serve low-income clients who may be eligible for, but not receiving, SNAP. In several areas of Oregon, these community partners have received training on SNAP screening and eligibility in order to assist clients on-site with completing a SNAP application, using the following steps:
1. The partner organization makes the application available on-site to clients who do not currently receive SNAP. (For those partner organizations with computers, clients may be given access to an online screening tool.)
2. A staff person/volunteer helps the client complete the application and discusses with the client what documents are needed for verification purposes.
3. After the application is completed, the partner photocopies and faxes the front (filing) page of the application to the appropriate local SNAP office.
4. The staff person/volunteer then calls the SNAP office to verify receipt of the application and to help the client schedule an intake appointment.
5. Applicants receive the original copy of their application, fax receipt, and a written confirmation of their appointment date.
The local SNAP offices help to plan how this process fits in best with their workload and schedule. For instance, some offices may be able to receive and process faxes and phone calls throughout the day, while others may set a specific window of time for receipt of faxes and scheduling appointments. The state has found that, regardless of the approach, the system works best when there is a designated point person to track applications and schedule appointments.
What was the result?
The fax model has proven helpful in reducing the number of office visits, as clients often come to their intake appointments with completed paperwork and documentation and therefore can access their benefits after only one visit. This is especially useful in serving clients who live in remote areas or have transportation barriers, and in improving efficiency in local offices.
Oregon has found that successful outreach strategies draw upon a combination of effective information resources and materials, a collaborative focus on barriers and solutions, and effective and progressive administrative policies. The community fax model is just one approach among many that has helped Oregon to boost its SNAP participation rate to roughly 80%.
For more information
To learn more about Oregon’s approaches to SNAP outreach, download the guide Food Stamp Outreach: Improving Participation in Your Community from Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.