The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a temporary waiver that will allow participants in the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the United States Virgin Islands to buy hot foods with their benefits through .
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue emphasized the importance of the waiver, noting that many Virgin Islands residents evacuated to shelters, cannot store food and lack access to cooking facilities.
“The waiver USDA approved for the U.S. Virgin Islands will help ensure that people participating in SNAP can get the food they need,” Perdue said. “Process and paperwork should take a back seat in challenging times like the folks in the Virgin Islands are experiencing in the aftermath of this devastating storm.”
Under normal circumstances, Perdue explained, hot foods and hot foods ready for immediate consumption cannot be bought using SNAP benefits. SNAP-authorized retailers were notified of the waiver.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is ready to consider additional waivers that may be needed to help program participants who have lost food due to the disaster and to simplify the application process for affected households, upon request from the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Human Services, he said.
The Department of Human Services may also request a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) for FNS approval to offer continuing food assistance after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are able to prepare food at home. D-SNAP can be a critical tool in the recovery process, but it is not the first step, Perdue said, noting that FNS offers states a range of assistance from rescue to recovery.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which together comprise America's nutrition safety net. For more information on FNS assistance during times of disaster, visit www.fns.usda.gov/disaster.