New text service aims to help people connect to SNAP benefits

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - More than one-fourth of eligible people in Alaska are not participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to 2016 data from the USDA.

The Anchorage Innovation Team has produced a free text service that they hope can change that statistic.

The public can text “SNAP” to (907) 891-8913 for information on the program and how to get connected. A text bot responds to the message with questions and a possible list of follow-up responses a user can choose from.

Depending on the response, users can get information and eventually input what time would be best for an employee with the Food Bank of Alaska to give them a call and help them out.

“It’s targeted for people with food insecurity that may be eligible for SNAP or people that may be already on it and have questions,” said Brendan Babb, the Anchorage Innovation Team director. “It’s a way to get information and have someone from the great food bank of Alaska staff follow up with them.”

“Usually we have to go out in the community, trying to find people to share this information,” said Cara Durr, Public Engagement Director with the Food Bank of Alaska. “It’s saving a lot of effort on our end.”

According to Durr, there are a lot of misconceptions about who is eligible for SNAP. Durr and others with the Food Bank of Alaska would like to see more people using their benefits that they are eligible for and hopes the text service will help.

“We’ve gotten about 150 people texting and using the service in the past month,” Durr said. “And it resulted in 65 applications and case status managements.”

The service launched toward the end of August and the i-team and food bank would like to see more people utilizing the service.

The Anchorage i-team launched in 2017 to focus on issues relating to the cost of living, economic opportunities and access to services. They received a grant from the Rasmuson Foundation which helped fund this project.

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