Today is the last day of March. It’s the last day of a month in which we saw the coronavirus bear down on our country and state and cities; a time in which Dallas reeled and is working hard to right itself in any way it can. Local and state guidelines closed all dine-in restaurant and bar frequentations to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. We are ordered to shelter in our homes. Tomorrow is the first day of a month in which we’ll continue to look to the effects on those who are most vulnerable—and to look, every day, for ways to help.
One thing you can do tomorrow is this. Avoid grocery shopping in these early days of the month. And if you go grocery shopping—and by all means avoid it if you can—make sure you don’t buy items with WIC marked on their price tag.
This is where we remind you that WIC funds are disbursed on the first of the month. (New applicants who apply during the month can receive theirs later, however.) These are the funds under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which the USDA provides for “pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age 5” who “meet income guidelines, a state residency requirement, and [are] individually determined to be at ‘nutritional risk’ by a health professional.” They can be spent at the individual’s discretion, but they expire at the end of each month. Consider staying home a few days and allowing these individuals to have first choice.
We are realizing how much access matters. Some city leaders are joining the call, including Councilman Adam Medrano:
You may have seen developments last week regarding SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamp) funds under the aegis of the USDA, which cover staples—produce, proteins, and all sorts of grocery items—but not hot food or restaurant meals. There’s a movement to use those at restaurants. SNAP benefits get issued on a rolling basis between the 1st and 15th, determined by the final digit of a recipient’s eligibility enrollment number.
An article last week in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was headlined “Texas asks USDA to let SNAP benefits be used at to-go restaurants due to coronavirus.” The Texas Health and Human Services Commission sent an open letter asking USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service agency to expand an already existing “Restaurant Meal Program” (until now for the elderly and disabled) and to make it faster and easier for applicants to secure access to benefits. (SNAP funding did not receive an increase in the recent stimulus package approved by the Senate.)
This all comes amid a tremendous amount of novelty and resourcefulness springing up around a basic imperative—getting food to those who need it most in a time of crisis.
Editor’s note: This story was changed to reflect more specifics of how SNAP benefits are disbursed.