USDA backs Hawaii's wildfire victims with food aid

USAgNet - 09/18/2023

Wildfires have wreaked havoc in Hawaii, but support is on the horizon. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has unveiled its Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) for low-income Hawaiian residents affected by the fires.

Interestingly, around 16,000 households that don't usually qualify for the regular Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could now be eligible for D-SNAP based on specific criteria. The objective is simple – to ensure that those reeling from the aftermath of the wildfires have their nutritional needs met.

"Making sure wildfire victims in Hawaii receive essential food aid is a top priority for the president," a statement read. "We understand that the crisis extends beyond the fires. For many, the real struggle might just be starting."

Households looking to benefit from D-SNAP should be from the disaster-stricken area and meet the program's eligibility requirements. Qualified families will get a month's worth of benefits, translating to groceries from SNAP-approved stores.

Hawaii has structured its D-SNAP operations in phases:

Maui Island will accept applications from September 18-23, 2023.

Honolulu County, Kauai County, Hawaii County, and additional Maui County locations will open applications from September 18-22, 2023.

It's worth noting that D-SNAP kicks in once families can buy and prepare food at home after a disaster. Also, while current SNAP households aren't eligible for D-SNAP, there are provisions for supplemental SNAP benefits for specific zip codes in Hawaii.

The recent announcements are part of a broader strategy to support Hawaiians as they cope with the wildfires. Other measures include:

Allowing SNAP beneficiaries to purchase ready-to-eat hot foods.

Providing replacements for benefits lost due to power outages.

Waiving some reporting requirements and granting more flexibility for food and nutrition programs.

Various USDA agencies are also teaming up with federal departments to bolster recovery efforts, from analyzing affected lands to ensuring shelter for the displaced.

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