To increase the disability community’s access to nutritious, affordable food, New York State is looking to reform its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

In the United States, people living with disabilities are almost two times more likely to experience food insecurity during the pandemic than people without disabilities, according to a recent report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The New York Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (NY OTDA) is working to improve its SNAP application process in response to the pandemic. Improvements such as narrowing the enrollment application to one sheet and expanding the eligibility period can “reduce the amount of time and effort” for people with disabilities applying for or recertifying their eligibility for SNAP, Anthony Farmer, a spokesperson for the NY OTDA, tells Food Tank.

Further reforms can help people living with disabilities access nutritious food, Michel Nischan, Founder of Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit organization that advocates for nutrition policy, tells Food Tank. Nischan notes that providing nutrition information and coaching through programs like Foodsmart, as well as increasing Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) for online grocery shopping can remove food access barriers for people with disabilities.

Nischan mentions the importance of SNAP recipients using their benefits to purchase food online for delivery. Before the pandemic, many states’ SNAP did not allow recipients to use their benefits to buy food online. As a result, family members and caregivers of people with disabilities had no choice but to purchase groceries in person, increasing the risk of contracting COVID-19. “The pandemic was initially catastrophic for people living with disabilities,” Nischan tells Food Tank.

In April 2019, New York was the first state to launch the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot with participating grocery retailers. Now all 50 states participate in the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot. In addition to increasing the disability community’s access to groceries, NY OTDA’s SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education Program teaches people how to shop for healthy ingredients and cook healthy meals on a budget.

Read the full article about SNAP for people with disabilities by Sycamore May at Food Tank.