One of the greatest challenges for low income households is managing a budget. Many of these households are forced to make difficult decisions about where their money goes every month. Even households that are technically able to afford groceries every month may be forced to purchase lower quality and less nutritional food, which is still problematic.
Fortunately, the state of Michigan has multiple food assistance programs in place. Each of the programs has a slightly different purpose, but the overall goal of all the programs is to provide healthy nutritional food for low income households. The requirements for each program are different, but they generally focus on two specific areas. The first is the total size of the household, and the second is the total income of everyone in the household. Finally, some programs are aimed specifically at children or the elderly.
Listed below are several of the larger programs available throughout the state. Low income households should also consider smaller, local programs in their county. For example, many churches and nonprofit organizations run small food pantries.
Michigan Food Assistance Program
One of the main programs in Michigan is simply called the Food Assistance Program. The Food Assistance Program is funded on both the state and federal level. One of the benefits of the Food Assistance Program is that beneficiaries do not have to count any funds they receive from the program towards their total household income. This is very important, since it allows beneficiaries to qualify for additional programs.
The Food Assistance Program is modeled after the federal program, SNAP. The most important aspect of the program dictates what beneficiaries are able to purchase with the funds provided from the program. The primary purpose of the program is for beneficiaries to be able to purchase groceries. As such, beneficiaries cannot use funds from the Food Assistance Program to purchase other items at a grocery store, such as medicine, alcoholic beverages or tobacco. In addition, beneficiaries cannot purchase hot foods or foods sold at restaurants in the store. The reason for this is because the program places an emphasis on purchasing healthy, nutritional food that can last throughout the week.
One exception to this rule is that beneficiaries are allowed to purchase seeds and plants in Michigan as long as they are used to grow food for the household.
Michigan School Breakfast and Lunch Program
The school breakfast and lunch program is technically a combination of two different programs but are often counted as a single program. Depending on the school, beneficiaries either receive free breakfast and lunch while they are attending school, or they receive heavy discounts on these meals. Like other food assistance programs, schools are required to adhere to specific nutritional guidelines to ensure that students have healthy meal options.
Households that are eligible for other food or financial assistance programs in the state are usually automatically enrolled in the school breakfast and lunch program. Otherwise, households must meet certain financial eligibility requirements to qualify, but they are not nearly as strict as some other food assistance programs in the state.
Michigan Combined Application Project (MiCAP)
MiCAP is aimed at applicants who are already receiving SSI benefits. In addition to receiving SSI benefits, the applicant must be older than 18, and they must not be able to purchase food on his or her own. Since the program builds off of the SSI programs, it is very easy to qualify for MiCAP. Applicants are not required to submit copies of any personal information, since everything they need is already on file. Applicants that are accepted into the program receive a Bridge Card, which functions like a bank or debit card.
Michigan’s Feeding America Program
Feeding America is a nationwide food assistance program, with over 200 food banks all across the county. Unlike other groups, Feeding America is not something that applicants have to sign up for. Instead, the program helps Michigan residents find the nearest food banks in their area. The program works directly alongside these food banks, who are responsible for distributing the food to those who need it. As such, any eligibility requirements are determined by the individual food banks.
In addition to directly providing food, Feeding America conducts hunger research. This research is used in a number of different ways, such as identifying areas in the world where there is limited access to nutritional food and providing information to other food assistance programs to help determine where they are most effective. Feeding America also works closely with businesses throughout the country to help organize charitable events to support food banks.
Michigan Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels is one of the most well-known food assistance programs. Meals on Wheels is available for any homebound adult 60 years or older or adults who have a disability that prevents them from buying or preparing their own meals. Volunteers bring beneficiaries meals Monday through Friday. Participants are sent letters at the end of the month detailing how much the meals cost, but they are not required to pay anything in order to receive food assistance.