If you are a Virginia resident then you can take advantage of several food and meal assistance programs if you need help purchasing groceries or accessing healthy meals. Virginia food assistance programs exist to help you and your family members if you are unemployed, on a low income or are otherwise unable to afford necessary food items on your own. Most Virginia food assistance programs are overseen by the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS). The VDSS has approximately 120 offices across the state of Virginia and coordinates food assistance and other programs in an effort to reduce poverty throughout the state. Some VDSS-supervised programs which may assist you with meeting your nutritional needs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the SNAP Employment & Training Program (SNAPET). Below is information about the qualifications for and benefits offered under SNAP and SNAPET, as well as other Virginia food assistance programs.
The Virginia SNAP Program
The Virginia Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a branch of the federal program by the same name. SNAP is also known as the Food Stamps Program. If your family is eligible for Virginia SNAP benefits then you will receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which is similar to a credit card. Your EBT card can be used at participating grocery stores, farmer's markets and other retailers to purchase healthy food items. In order to qualify for Virginia SNAP your household must meet federal guidelines on income and household size.
The Virginia SNAPET Program
Virginia Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training (SNAPET) is an extension of Virginia SNAP. SNAPET is an optional program which can connect you and any eligible members of your family with employment opportunities and provide you with job training. Participating in the SNAPET program will also allow you to receive SNAP food assistance benefits for a longer period of time than you otherwise would, provided that you do not find a better job or income source prior to your food assistance benefits expiring.
The Virginia WIC Program
The Virginia Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) is also part of a larger federal WIC program. If you are a single mother of one or more children under the age of five, then you may qualify for food assistance through the WIC Program. This program will give you credits you can spend on healthy food products for you and your children.
You can apply for WIC benefits at any VDSS office. When applying for WIC benefits, you must provide pay stubs or other documents illustrating your income and work history, such as your income tax return. You must also present proof of residency to the VDSS agent with whom you interview. Acceptable proof of residency forms include your driver's license or photo id, mortgage payment receipts and utility bills.
The Virginia Nutrition Program for Seniors and Meals on Wheels
Another VA food assistance program is the Virginia Nutrition Program for Seniors, which is also known as Farm Market Fresh for Seniors. The VNPS is administered by the Virginia Department for the Aging. However, you can also contact the VDSS to sign up for the senior food assistance program. As a member of the program, you will receive $40 worth of fresh herbs and produce when those crops are available. This form of senior food assistance is not available in every Virginia county. The VDSS or the Department for the Aging can tell you if you live in a qualifying county.
Another Virginia food assistance program for which you can apply if you are over the age of 60 is Meals on Wheels. Each Meals on Wheels Program in Virginia is administered by the Agency on Aging for the geographic location in question. The VA Meals on Wheels program will deliver healthy lunches to you on predetermined days of the week if you cannot leave your home due to illness, disability or a mobility problem.
The Virginia Branch of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
In Virginia branch of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provides school lunches to children of low-income families. In order to qualify for the program, your children must attend either a public school or a non-profit private school where NSLP is offered. You must also provide proof of your low-income status, such as pay stubs or tax documentation, to the school administration office. If your family qualifies for Virginia NSLP food assistance then your children will receive either free or discounted school lunches based on your exact income level.
The Virginia Summer Food Services Program (SFSP)
If you are on a low income and you have children, then they may qualify to receive free meals under the Virginia Summer Food Services Program (SFSP). The SFSP is a federally run program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture and overseen in Virginia by the Virginia Department of Health. As part of the program local business can opt to become sponsors and provide places where children under the age of 18 can go for free breakfasts and lunches during the summer. You can obtain a list of SFSP meal providers from the Virginia Department of Health.
Virginia Food Bank Assistance
The Federation of Virginia Food Banks organization is a state-wide organization which provides food for low-income Virginia families. There are approximately 2,900 agencies in Virginia which are members of the FVFB. Member agencies include shelters, soup kitchens and senior centers across the state. You can obtain a list of FVFB locations near your home online or by contacting the VDSS.