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Great Health Divide | Stocking stores to supply SNAP beneficiaries

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 7:56 PM EDT
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POMEROY, Oh. (WSAZ) - As of 2018, more than 4,800 people in Meigs County, Ohio relied on SNAP benefits.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest federal nutrition assistance program.

SNAP provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families via an Electronic Benefits Transfer card.

This card can be used like a debit card to purchase eligible food in authorized retail food stores.

The Food Fair in Pomeroy is the only full-service grocery store for many miles.

“I’d rather come here than go to Athens any day,” said Miranda Long, a shopper.

There are nearby convenience stores and dollar chains, but they aren’t typically stocked with healthier food options.

“There is no substitute for the traditional supermarket as far as fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Tim Forth, owner of Food Fair.

Forth and the Powell family rescued the Pomeroy grocery store when it was set to be closed down years ago. If it wasn’t around, residents would have to travel an additional 30+ minutes to the nearest grocery store.

Miranda Long stopped in to pick up a few things for her son’s birthday celebration. She says it’s always readily stocked with supplies, as well as healthy and nutritious food.

Food Fair is one of the few local stores in the area who accepts SNAP and WIC benefits. To become a retailer who accepts these programs, you must go through an application and screening process.

“You have to have a certain amount of product to even qualify for WIC,” said Forth.

Many who utilize SNAP benefits are trying to make those dollars stretch as far as possible, which isn’t always easy.

“I believe it’s a little bit more expensive to eat healthier,” said Long.

Tim Forth says grocery stores move a higher quantity of healthier foods which gives them a competitive price advantage.

“Traditional supermarket has so many more choices,” said Forth. “As to different items; whether you want organics or something with a little bit more value, it’s just choices abound.”

Many agree more education could help recipients and beneficiaries better understand the value of healthy, nutritious foods. Working parents may struggle to find the time or energy to prepare adequate and balanced meals for their family. Others may not know how to incorporate fruits and vegetables into cooking recipes.

“We can educate the public about healthy alternatives, healthy living,” said Forth. “It just pays dividends; lower medical costs, healthier children.”

The pandemic also put pressure on certain products, inventory and at times it made keeping the shelves stocked, tricky. Forth says it’s a responsibility they don’t take lightly.

“If we’re out of something or we’re having trouble getting supply,” said Forth. “It’s a life changing event for the folks of Meigs County.”

Not only is most of the produce sourced locally, so is the workforce, and a few simple changes would benefit the whole community and every family who embraces them.

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