The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote for VISTA Pulse, a blog for-and by- AmeriCorps VISTAs in the field.
Plenty of jobs come with perks. For some these come in the form of company cars, dental insurance, or a spending allowance. For VISTAs, it’s food stamps. On second thought, food stamps aren’t so much a perk as a necessity. The only kind of living you can really do on a VISTA “living stipend” is eat, sleep, and go to work. By taking taking care of the “eat” part, food stamps help you feel a little less broke at the end of the month.
For the uninitiated, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) provides support to those in poverty in the form of food stamps. Run under different names in every state (example: EBT or Link in Illinois, CalFresh in California), SNAP benefits have long since abandoned actual stamps for ATM-style cards. The concept is still the same: those who qualify are given a set amount of assistance every month based primarily on their income. And since VISTAs are all paid at or near the poverty line, all VISTAs qualify for food stamps.
While web-based applications make applying for food stamps very easy, that’s only half the battle. Inefficient bureaucracies, confusing policies, and other factors make many VISTAs lose their appetite for the whole thing. But believe me, it’s worth it. After checking out various VISTA conversations and resources, we’ve put together a few tips for those of you who are thinking about getting Food Stamps: