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Hollywood Professionals with Disabilities Help Millions Gain Safe Access to Food

Online Ordering and Food Delivery Urgent for 11 Million People with Disabilities on SNAP  

Los Angeles, California, May 14 – A group of entertainment professionals, in partnership with the disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility, have created a campaign to ensure that people who use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can do so through online delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new video featuring those who use wheelchairs, are blind and are immunocompromised from all over the country urges governors and the USDA to cut the red tape and allow SNAP users to order safely from home.

Nationwide, 11 million Americans with disabilities depend on SNAP, also called food stamps, to pay for groceries. Fifteen states have yet to ensure their high-risk residents can receive online grocery deliveries through SNAP, leading to millions of people with and without disabilities risking exposure to COVID-19 or going hungry.

“Being a person with a disability myself, until working on this video, I did not know that so many other people with disabilities who are SNAP recipients could not have food delivered to stay safe,” said actor and producer John Lawson, an amputee who edited the video.

Producer Jonathan Murray and director Nasreen Alkhateeb also assisted with the video’s production. Murray is a RespectAbility board member while Alkhateeb and Lawson are alumni of RespectAbility’s Lab for entertainment professionals with disabilities.

“Creative professionals have a long tradition of helping during a crisis,” said Lauren Appelbaum, who leads RespectAbility’s work in Hollywood. “We are honored that so many people with disabilities are making an impact to help millions of people safely access food during this pandemic.”

In early April, RespectAbility Board Members Ollie Cantos, whose blind triplet sons currently are recovering from COVID-19, and Janet LaBreck held several virtual convenings for people who are blind or who have low vision. During these gatherings, participants discussed the difficulties for people who are blind to socially distance while grocery shopping and conducting other essential business. These conversations led to the creation of the #SNAPDeliverySavesLives campaign.

This week RespectAbility launched a new video to encourage grassroots participation for individuals to contact their state and federally-elected officials, as well as the USDA, to ensure that people who use SNAP can do so through online delivery. Individuals can do so via email, directed tweets and phone calls at https://www.respectability.org/SNAP. RespectAbility also tracks states as they apply for these USDA waivers.

Prior to the pandemic, just six states allowed SNAP users to order food for delivery. RespectAbility has been reaching out to every state on this issue, actively encouraging SNAP directors to quickly enable people with disabilities to use their benefits online. As of May 14, 22 states have been approved, and another 13 states have applied for USDA approval, leaving the governors of 15 states to act.

A key success is that CalFresh, which provides food to 1.1 million Californians with disabilities, now allows people to order food online. To take advantage of online food delivery, Californians can visit GetCalFresh.org or call 1-877-847-3663. A second program organized by the Los Angeles City’s Department on Disability, in coordination with the Mayor’s office, FOX and Access Paratransit, delivers lunches to individuals as well as families with disabilities. Several groups, including SCLARC, DOR and KEEN have connected their clients to this program. In the first three weeks of deliveries, the program delivered more than 30,000 meals to more than 620 families and individuals with disabilities. Los Angeles residents can 888-863-7411 for food delivery or fill out a Google Doc form.

This video features the following self-advocates with disabilities:

  • Tatiana Lee, Actress and RespectAbility Hollywood Inclusion Associate
  • Bella Cosper, Actress and Writer
  • Sneha Dave, Creator of the Crohn’s and Colitis Young Adults Network and RespectAbility Board Member
  • Tobias Forrest, Actor and Producer
  • Engracia Figueroa, Vice President of the Board for CALIF

Directed by Jonathan Murray. Edited by John Lawson. Additional assistance by Nasreen Alkhateeb, Lauren Appelbaum and Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi.

Transcript:

Tatiana Lee: As wheelchair users,
Bella Cosper: As a blind person,
Sneha Dave: And others with disabilities,
Tobias Forrest: It is critical during the pandemic that we practice social distancing.
Engracia Figueroa: One way to do this is to have groceries delivered.
Tatiana Lee: But for those of us who use SNAP,
Sneha Dave: The government program that replace food stamps,
Bella Cosper: We have to go to the grocery store in person.
Engracia Figueroa: Only a few states allow for SNAP to be used for online delivery.
Tobias Forrest: It’s time other states cut the red tape and allow SNAP users to order safely from home.
John Lawson: SNAP delivery saves lives. Visit respectability.org/SNAP to learn how you can make a difference in your state.

Media Contact

Lauren Appelbaum
LaurenA@RespectAbility.org

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the Vice President, Communications, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. As an individual with an acquired invisible disability - Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. From entertainment professionals to presidential campaigns, journalists to philanthropists, she conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible. Behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, Appelbaum engages decision makers and creatives to improve the quality and number of authentic, diverse and inclusive presentations of people with disabilities on TV and film so audiences can see people with disabilities as vital contributors in America and around the world. She and her team have consulted on projects with Amazon, Disney/ABC Television, NBCUniversal, Netflix, and The Walt Disney Studios, among others. Appelbaum also enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by nurturing and connecting them to those who can assist with their careers, both on the creative and business sides of the industry. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, which was created to help entertainment professionals to be as inclusive of people with disabilities as possible, and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working behind the camera. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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