This is the third blog in a series about budgeting. If you haven’t read the first post yet, please take some time to read Developing a Household Budget and the second post in the series called Developing a Food Spending Plan. This third blog shares information on community resources that can help supplement your budget.
Managing your household and food budget can be challenging. Sometimes there’s not enough income to cover your expenses. It’s important to get enough food and healthy food, and there are many community resources to help, if you’re having trouble making ends meet.
Here’s a list of community food resources. Using these resources may help you stretch your food budget and allow you to use your income for other expenses, such as mortgage or medical bills.
Food and Nutrition Services (FNS)/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
FNS/SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), is a federal program that provides a monthly food supplement. FNS/SNAP benefits are loaded onto an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card and used like a debit card. Eligibility is based on income and household size. You can contact More In My Basket at 1-855-240-1451 to find out if you’re eligible and to receive assistance completing the application.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
WIC is a federal program that provides supplemental nutritious foods to pregnant and breastfeeding women and their infants and children up to age 5. Eligibility is based on income and some other factors. Contact your county’s health department to apply. You can find the contact information here.
Free and Reduced School Meals
This is a federal program offered in public schools. Schools offer breakfast and lunch to students for free or at reduced rates. Eligibility is based on income and families can apply by contacting their school. Children that live in households receiving SNAP/FNS benefits automatically qualify for free school meals.
Senior Meal Programs
Congregate nutrition sites provide nutritious meals, usually lunch, to adults age 60 and over. The meals are offered five days week at no cost. The congregate nutrition agency contact for your county can be found here.
Older adults that are homebound, may be able to receive meals delivered to their homes through program such as Meals on Wheels. The home delivered meals agency contact for your county can be found here.
Farmers’ Market Incentive Program
Many markets accept SNAP/FNS, but some offer incentives to stretch your FNS/SNAP benefits. Programs include matching your FNS/SNAP dollar with market funds up to a certain amount, or providing FNS/SNAP shoppers with coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables. If a market has a matching program, your five dollars in SNAP/FNS benefits would equal $10 in money to spend at market. Read more about farmers’ market incentive programs here, and check out North Carolina’s Farm Fresh farmers’ market directory to find a market near you that accepts FNS/SNAP benefits.
In some counties, you can receive vouchers to use at the famers’ market if you participate in certain programs. The vouchers can be redeemed for fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets. WIC recipients can receive vouchers through the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and older adults that attend congregate nutrition sites can receive vouchers through the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.
Food pantries provide food items to households in need. Pantries are often operated through charitable community organizations, such as churches. Each pantry will have different eligibility criteria and rules for how often a person can visit the pantry. You can find pantries that are located near you through Feeding America.
Having enough healthy food is important for your health and well-being. These resources can help supplement your food budget, freeing up money to use for other essentials, such as rent/mortgage or medical expenses.