After the terrible December 2021 tornadoes ripped through communities in states, including Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee, the Biden administration has pledged to get help to those affected by the disaster.

On December 13, President Biden underscored the importance of letting states know all the relief they can request. He told the governor of Kentucky, “I’m not expecting you to know all you need. Let us tell you what you can ask for that you haven’t asked for …  [L]et us do our job.” As he explained to reporters, “[T]hese large government agencies, like the federal or state governments, it’s hard for people to understand sometimes.”

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), school meals, Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), and other federal nutrition programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can respond in myriad ways after a disaster. Through Disaster SNAP, people not already enrolled in SNAP may qualify for temporary disaster benefits; those on SNAP may receive replacement or supplemental SNAP benefits. Similarly, states can provide WIC benefit replacements and request temporary changes to school meal eligibility and meal plans.

The FRAC Advocate’s Guide to Disaster SNAP and our disaster page provide stakeholders with information on identifying how federal nutrition programs can assist in recovery. A new resource page provides updates on developments for aid to the communities hit hard by the December 2021 tornadoes.

Now is the time to learn about maximizing that relief. The stakes are high. Disasters affect an individual’s health and well-being as well as a community’s economy. When disaster victims use SNAP, P-EBT, and WIC benefits for food purchases, those federal dollars help them put meals on their tables and stimulate the economy.

The federal nutrition programs can provide one piece of the disaster recovery puzzle — but only if states know what to request from USDA’s toolbox and to ask for it.