SNAP (The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) provides assistance to over 40 million American citizens each year that are struggling to pay for food. The assistance, commonly referred to as the “food stamp” program, helps to provide struggling families and individuals basic food necessities. Items eligible to be purchased using the program include fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals, meat and dairy products. The program also allows eligible users to purchase seeds and plants that produce foods for consumption. Even though the program covers a lot of items the people need, SNAP cannot be used to purchase other semi-essential items like soap, household supplies, vitamins, and hot foods. Also not incorporated in the program are pet foods and other products needed for pets. However, a non-profit program was founded in 2013 to help pet owners handle the cost of pet foods.
Pet Food Stamps
Pet foods are expensive and obviously necessary for a pet to live. In February 2013, Marc Okon, a well-known businessman from New York, started a privately funded non-profit organization called Pet Food Stamps. The program is fairly self-explanatory – low income families and individuals apply to receive pet food at no cost. Once approved, free pet food is delivered to the applicant. Pets are commonly the first to feel the effect of financial stress as owners often have no choice but to abandon or give pets away that they no longer can afford to keep. The Pet Food Stamp program is intended to help keep family’s unofficial members in their home. The impact of keeping cats, dogs and other animals with families, particularly families with children or elderly, cannot be easily quantified but is certainly enormous.
The demand and response for the fund has been huge. Thousands of pet owners have already applied for help since it began. Rising prices, low wages, and a still sluggish economy all contribute to a need for help. Animal shelters across the United States are overwhelmed with pets and strays that have been left behind to live on their own. Although demand is high, volunteer assistance is also high. Many pet lovers sympathize with struggling families and assist with the program. Volunteers are able to sponsor and distribute pet foods to needing homes. Sponsors do not select the home or pets that are in need but instead, they are selected by being the next in line. This helps prevent favoritism.
Critics will always attempt to find issues with assistance programs. Some say that families in need should focus on their own issues and not be burdened with having to take care of pets as well. Even if pet food is paid for, what about other expenses involved with owning a cat or dog? Pets can be expensive and can potentially prevent owners from paying for their own necessities.
Advocates for the program believe that most people just want to keep their pet in their home. Pets help keep people happy and many care deeply for them. This program helps alleviate just a little bit of burden off of low income pet owners.
The program is privately run and funded but they do accept donations. Donations can be either one-time donations or recurring monthly donations. Monthly donation amounts vary from as little as $10 to up to $500 or more. Donations for the Pet Food Stamps program are currently only accepted online through Paypal at this time.