When Robin was 30 years old and the kids were 3 years old and 7 months old, she accidentally tore an artery while trying to get a kink out of her neck and she had multiple strokes. Through this experience, we learned the critical importance of the safety net when life gets hard. You can learn more about our story in this video she made originally with Kaiser Permanente but it has been used by other organizations since then.
As discussed in the video, food insecurity can happen to anyone and with the current economic crisis, it’s critical that we include hunger in the conversation. We also want to highlight the specific challenges of neurodiverse families in the conversation. It’s also important to understand that SNAP (food stamps) helps everyone during an economic downturn, not just those using the program.
Why Access to Food is Exceptionally Difficult for Exceptional Families
Economic risk factors are intertwined
People with higher medical and mental health bills have less money for food. People with medical and mental health needs or children with increased needs have a harder time competing for jobs or keeping the jobs they have.
Everything is harder when everything is harder
If daily life is already difficult, where do you find the bandwidth to go to extra lengths to obtain food?
Going to a County Office or Food Bank is Extremely Challenging
Think how difficult it would be for you to go to a food bank or county office to obtain food–how would you figure out where to go and what to do when you got there? How long do you have to wait in line? Will you be able to answer the questions correctly to get what you need? Now imagine that you are an adult with autism or a parent with a child with autism. This becomes exponentially harder.
Special dietary needs are common
Gastrointestinal issues, allergies, and other conditions requiring a special diet are common. This makes it difficult to use food pantries and food banks–how do you sort out what’s safe to eat when the options change every time?
People with autism have more than a food “preference”
All of us have food preferences but for adults and children with autism it goes well beyond a preference–it can be nearly impossible to swallow something that is the wrong texture, color, or flavor. Hunger and thirst will eventually win for most neurotypical people but it goes beyond a personal choice for many kids and adults with autism who will become dangerously malnourished.
SNAP is critical for feeding families
Allows people to choose medically and culturally appropriate foods
Usually allows high risk individuals to use curbside pick up just like everyone else
Keeps people who are easily overwhelmed out of overwhelming environments like food banks and back in their familiar grocery stores
SNAP helps the economy
SNAP benefits are one of the fastest and most effective forms of economic stimulus
Protects grocery stores in food deserts in rural areas from having to close
Provides jobs to grocery store workers, truckers, and farmers.
Brings federal funds to the areas hardest hit–those areas will have more people on SNAP and therefore more money coming into the area to stimulate the local economy
SNAP encourages self-sufficiency
By relieving the food pressure, SNAP allows people to focus on improving their situation
SNAP beneficiaries are better nourished so they are more likely to be productive and take fewer sick days
50% of people using SNAP are off the program within 9 months as their financial situation improves
There is wide variability in SNAP administration
Different states and counties show different levels of success at getting SNAP to the people who need it most–some create unreasonable barriers and others make it easy
More and more organizations are turning public awareness to this problem but it’s still happening. If someone is eligible for a federal program, they should have it. Period.
What You Can Do Today
Find out if you are eligible for SNAP and apply. You can start with this federal website or many states have local organizations that will help. In Colorado, Hunger Free Colorado has a Hunger Free Hotline and other states have similar organizations. federal
Embrace food stamps/SNAP as a tool for economic recovery and well-being for our entire country as well as the people needing the program
Contact your legislators to let them know that SNAP and hunger need to be a top priority and efficiently getting food stamps to the people who need them helps everyone
Find out how your state or county is doing at getting people signed up for SNAP and make it public. Public scrutiny can make a big difference!
Write a letter to the editor explaining why SNAP is important
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While Robin is a board certified family physician with a decade of private practice behind her (and Tim learned a lot at the dinner table), nothing on this website is medical advice. Anything with her viewpoint on this website is written from her perspective as the wife and mother of a neurodiverse family.