“People are hungry,” says RespectAbility
Washington, D.C., April 10 — Millions of people with disabilities are unable to get food and medicine during the national pandemic emergency, according to the nonprofit advocacy group RespectAbility. The disability nonprofit organization recommends changes to the Food Stamp program, and urges governments, online retailers, faith and service organizations to help fill the void.
“If you are a person with disabilities at home alone and you’re under 60 or you live in a part of the country that is not served by a commercial food delivery service, you probably don’t know where your next meal is coming from,” said RespectAbility’s President, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi.
“Many of these folks are vulnerable to the coronavirus because of health conditions, while people who are blind and those who use wheelchairs are finding it impossible to maintain social distance.”
The problems, Mizrahi said, include:
- In many states, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as Food Stamps, prohibits SNAP benefits from being used for online food and grocery delivery services.
- The leading home-based meal delivery program, “Meals on Wheels,” does not serve people under the age of 60, even if they are homebound.
- Many commercial delivery services are backed up, don’t serve many areas, and/or are out of food that people who are diabetic or have other health conditions need. Many people who are blind are unable to get food for their service dogs.
“Leaders must make an emergency exception to the Food Stamp program so it can be used for online food delivery, at least during the duration of this pandemic,” Mizrahi said, noting that she already has written to leaders to call their attention to the problem.
Mizrahi also calls for private-sector leadership from companies like Amazon, Walmart and Instacart: “Jeff Bezos could easily direct Amazon to prioritize food delivery for people with disabilities, just like his company set up a priority channel for medical professionals to get supplies.”
Mizrahi singled out the need for the “Meals on Wheels” program to include people with disabilities, regardless of age, who are temporarily unable to circulate in the community due to the pandemic.
“Thankfully, New York is filling the gap with a new program, www.nyc.gov/getfood, and Los Angeles has just implemented a program (by calling 888-863-7411). That shows that where there is a will there is a way, and lives can be saved.”
Lastly, churches, synagogues, mosques and service organizations need to “help fill the void” by undertaking expanded and/or volunteer food delivery service programs on their own.
“At this sacred time of year for Christians, Jews and Muslims, what better demonstration of faith than to bring food and medicine to the hungry and sick?” she asked.
RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.