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Meet Nate: SNAP a Lifeline for those Denied Work
Meet Nate: a young dad striving to provide for his family after serving a prison sentence for passing bad checks. He looked high and low for a job for three years but even temp agencies wouldn’t accept him. As far as employers were concerned, he was defined by his response to one question: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”
SNAP (food stamps) helped Nate keep food on the table when the promise of steady work failed him. With the support of those at the HELP program, Nate was finally able to overcome the employment barrier, and now works to feed his family.
After paying their debt to society, many like Nate face tremendous barriers to putting their lives back together upon returning to their communities. Poor people of color, particularly men, are victims of a discriminatory criminal justice system that seems intent on keeping them in poverty. The stigma of having a criminal record means that ex-offenders—returning citizens is the term preferred by advocacy groups—are already one of the groups most vulnerable to hunger.
In most states, policies that make millions of returning citizens ineligible for nutrition assistance programs like SNAP only exacerbate the problem—while studies show that access to public services that improve economic security, especially soon after people are released, reduces recidivism rates. The policies are counterproductive, go on punishing people long after they’ve completed their sentences, and turn their children, other family members, and communities into collateral damage.
Italicized text is excerpted from the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. You can read more about social exclusion and hunger in chapter three, and explore the data related to Nate's story and others' with our interactive tool, Stories in the Steps.
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