Second Harvest Offers Help with FoodShare Applications
Making the decision to apply for FoodShare can be hard. Caroline, an 89 year old who is active in her community, never figured she would be in a position to ask for anything. She had saved but said she had "outlived her savings," and it was becoming impossible to make ends meet, especially with her health care costs. Caroline first heard about FoodShare when she attended a Second Harvest mobile pantry but didn't pay much attention to the information. It was hard enough attending the mobile pantry and, besides, she didn't think she would be eligible.
When Caroline received a letter about FoodShare from Second Harvest, her family encouraged her to apply. Caroline was still too embarrassed and thought applying would be too complicated. Then a friend told her more about applying and put her in touch with a Second Harvest Outreach Specialist. After talking with the outreach specialist, Caroline decided to apply and set up an appointment to get help with her application.
At Second Harvest's FoodShare Outreach program, we hear stories like Caroline's every day. Hard working people have hit tough times and don't know where to turn. Many people don't know what FoodShare is or what to expect after they apply. Some people, like Caroline, are hesitant to apply for FoodShare, even though they qualify. The FoodShare Outreach team understands that the FoodShare application process can be hard to navigate and offers free assistance to make the process easier.
When clients call the FoodShare Helpline, friendly staff and trained volunteers answer the phone. They answer questions about FoodShare and offer a short, confidential eligibility screening. Clients who appear to be eligible can set up an appointment with a FoodShare Outreach Specialist to get help with the application.
The outreach specialists meet with people in 16 southwestern Wisconsin counties: Monroe, Juneau, Adams, Vernon, Richland, Sauk, Columbia, Dodge, Crawford, Grant, Iowa, Dane, Jefferson, LaFayette, Green, and Rock. These meetings are held at convenient public locations, like libraries and food pantries. Outreach specialists also offer phone appointments for anyone in Wisconsin who has internet access. During application meetings, outreach specialists:
- Explain the process from start to finish
- Help the client complete the application on the ACCESS website
- Submit verification documents on the ACCESS website so they go right to the county (in-person appointments only)
- Teach people how to use their QUEST card and explain where it can be used
- Refer the client to other services, like Women, Infants and Children (WIC), BadgerCare, the Wisconsin Heating and Energy Assistance Program (WHEAP), and 2-1-1
During in-person appointments, outreach specialists and clients submit the application together. On the other hand, after phone appointments, outreach specialists send clients an email explaining how to submit the application and verification documents. The clients then electronically sign and submit the application.
What are the benefits of meeting with an outreach specialist?
- It’s faster! Outreach specialists can finish an application in 20-30 minutes, compared to 45-60 minutes for people applying on their own.
- Outreach specialists are familiar with challenging eligibility situations, like when a household has citizen and non-citizen members, college students, or varying work hours.
- Clients learn about the application process, how to use the QUEST card, and connect with other services.
After her application assistance appointment, Caroline found out that she was eligible for $50 a month in FoodShare benefits and was also likely eligible for the Medicare Savings Plan and Senior Care. These resources will help Caroline keep food on the table and have some breathing room in her budget. If you know someone who has a hard time paying for groceries or wants to learn more about FoodShare, have them call the FoodShare Helpline at 1-877-366-3635 or submit their information in the Contact Us form on this website.