The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is allowing the purchase of hot food in Humboldt County from Sept. 29 to Oct. 28, 2021. CalFresh is the statewide program, and recipients are also included in this waiver. This will allow people to replace food that was lost due to the wildfires, according to the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) disaster assistance program under the US Department of Agriculture. The wildfires have persisted through the years and increasingly cause more damage and lack of accessibility to food for the local communities affected. Counties that are included in this waiver to purchase hot food are Butte, Glenn, Humboldt, Mendocino, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, and Trinity.
Humboldt State University students participating in the CalFresh program find this waiver very helpful. Hannah LeWinter is a wildlife major, and has been on food stamps for almost two years.
“It’s basic human rights to have access to food and shelter,” LeWinter said. “And they’re already struggling with the shelter aspect, because of the wildfires. And then on top of that, to have food struggles is even harder.”
Due to the wildfires becoming larger and more frequent, it has affected people’s accessibility to basic necessities like food and shelter.
LeWinter adds that some people struggling through the wildfires wouldn’t have access to stovetops or the ability to make hot food.
“This [waiver] is especially important for those people who are being displaced from their homes to have access to a hot meal,” LeWinter said. “I think that everyone is deserving of that comfort.”
Sarah Somers is a recent graduate of Humboldt State University, and also uses food stamps. Somers acknowledges the stigma around using benefits. Somers would like to dismantle the negative light that this program seemingly exists under, as the limitations to what can be purchased are very strict and specific.
“We’re just trying to live here,” Somers said. “We’re just trying to eat food and not starve.”
Jasmyn Lemus is also a student at HSU that uses food stamps. Lemus is very grateful for the ability to purchase hot-and-ready food through food stamps, but wishes that the termination date of this waiver was not approaching so soon.
“I think they should definitely keep it around,” Lemus said. “I don’t think the wildfires are going to stop.”
Lemus works in a local grocery store and has seen many wildfire survivors coming in first hand.
“The last thing on their mind right now is, ‘oh, what should I make for dinner?’” Lemus said. “So having that hot-and-ready option is just very necessary.”
Lemus noted that this should be extended because so many people are in tough positions as well. Lemus spoke about the firefighters working long days or people coming from an overnight shift.
Somers reinforces that the FNS should be extending the waiver, and allowing the purchase of other necessities within these limitations.
“I think they need to extend it to more than just hot food, but also toiletries like tampons, toilet paper and paper towels,” Somers said.
LeWinter acknowledges the tough financial positions that most people on benefits are placed in.
“If you’re already someone who’s struggling financially, enough to qualify for EBT [electronic benefits transfer], then you’re probably struggling in other aspects of your life,” LeWinter said. “So having access to hot food would be a benefit, if they potentially keep something like that on there.”
Since the pandemic started, the ability to sign up online has become more user friendly and easier to upload documents. If you are interested in signing up for benefits through CalFresh or SNAP, contact the on campus HSU food service program, OhSnap! A good place to start learning about the application process is on their instagram page (@hsuohsnap).
Lemus encourages other students to sign up for this program, as it is there to help people who need it.
“We shouldn’t have to fight so much for food,” Lemus said. “If the government is offering assistance, we should not feel bad accepting it.”