Baltimore, Md. – April 17, 2012 – Tax season is drawing to a close, but a collaboration between Maryland Hunger Solutions and the Montgomery County Department of Health & Human Services’ Community Action Agency aims to help eligible households receive food benefits year round. Two tax sites in Montgomery County not only helped households with their tax forms and screened them for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), but also screened households to see if they were eligible for Food Supplement Program (FSP) benefits.
The two sites – the Community Action’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites in Takoma Park-East Silver Spring Center (TESS) and the Wheaton Services Center – were staffed with FSP Outreach & Resource Navigators, who educated clients about FSP. Throughout the three month program, navigators reached 543 low-income households, screened 332 to see if they were eligible for FSP, directly assisted in filing 56 applications, and referred families in need to local resources.
“Coupling outreach for the Food Supplement Program and the EITC is a smart match. Often people who are eligible to receive the EITC also are eligible to receive FSP, plus clients coming to VITA sites typically bring all of the documents needed to complete the FSP application,” said Maryland Hunger Solutions Director Cathy Demeroto. “By conducting outreach where people shop, play, live, and even file taxes, our goal is to ensure that the Food Supplement Program reaches everyone who needs it.”
Steve Galen, Community Action Board chair and its representative from the Primary Care Coalition, said “As a health care advocate, I understand poverty affects early brain development and health outcomes. Combining the efforts of volunteers working with Maryland Hunger and the VITA partnership to improve the economic well-being of families is a wise public health approach, since the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Food Supplement Program both reduce poverty, especially among children.”
Based on the success of this first year, Maryland Hunger Solutions is starting to plan for next year’s tax season, and hopes to expand the program to Community Action’s four VITA partnership sites. Working in collaboration with a statewide network of VITA sites, Maryland Hunger Solutions is assessing the need for FSP outreach at sites across the state, hoping to expand the reach of its volunteer-based program and to share its model with other sites.
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Maryland Hunger Solutions is the lead research, public education, and advocacy group in Maryland dedicated to using public programs to end hunger in Maryland. Maryland Hunger Solutions is an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center. For more information, visit www.mdhungersolutions.org or follow us on Twitter.