15 States Deny Access to Safe Food Options for People with Disabilities
Washington, D.C., May 14 – People with disabilities – including those who use wheelchairs, are blind and are immunocompromised – from all over the country created a video campaign to urge governors and the USDA to ensure that people who use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can do so through online delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
The campaign, #SNAPDeliverySavesLives, urges 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. The organization behind the campaign, disability advocacy nonprofit 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.
“It’s time other states cut the red tape and allow SNAP users to order safely from home,” actor Tobias Forrest, who is a quadriplegic, urges in the video.
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 a new video launched to encourage grassroots participation. The process was eye-opening to many involved who learned the intricacies of SNAP.
“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.”
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
SNAP delivery saves lives. Visit www.RespectAbility.org/SNAP to learn how you can make a difference in your state.