In January 2018, the Care2 Petitions claimed that 235,00 people signed a petition to include pet food in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The petition on Care2 Petitions asked the USDA to expand its SNAP food policy to include pet food. (The petition was closed in 2018.)
Although the petition went viral, it was not likely to influence or change USDA’s policy on SNAP benefits.
Why? Because the USDA identified pet food as a “nonfood item” not eligible for purchase under federal law. Food policies are hard to change and even harder to implement.
The USDA’s policy on SNAP benefits have not changed – food items are “any food or food product for home consumption and also includes seeds and plants which product food for consumption.”
Non-food items include tobacco product, alcohol products, any food sold for on-premises consumption, including pet foods, cosmetics, vitamins, pet food (luxury items). But SNAP benefits cover soft drinks, cookies, and ice cream (junk foods). source: What Can SNAP Buy?
Stopgap: Pet Food Banks
Fortunately, there are pet food banks and pantries to help people feed their pets. You may not have heard of a food bank for pets. If you think about it, how many people who visit food banks share food with their pets?
For example, over 40 million homeless or low-income people have SNAP benefits each year. Even if only one-third of them have pets, that’s still around 12 million people.
A quick web search of “number of pet food pantries” revealed over 192,000,000 results. Pet food bank had over 449,000,000 results and there’s still no Wikipedia page for Pet food pantries yet.
Pet food banks are nonprofit groups that offer free pet food assistance for people who qualify. Pet food banks do not distribute food directly to the public. They are the supply line for member pantries to help those in need.
Pet food pantries are nonprofits that distribute food directly to people in need. Pantries outreach to people and families in need. source:
Food bank v. Food Pantry
Pet food banks provide services and supplements including:
- Food bowls
- Vouchers to spay or neuter pets
- Pet beds
These resources serve as a stopgap measure until people can find long-term solutions to feed themselves and their pets.
National, Regional & Local
There are national and international programs for food banks. Sites offer state lists of resources, including emergency pet food services.
Also, there may be an application process for free pet food services to validate unemployment status, pets companionship, inside shelter for your pet, and not reselling donated pet food.
Pet food banks are another addition to soup kitchens, food banks, and homeless shelters. Pets touch our lives in many ways.
Often people spend their last dollar on pet food for their cat or dog. Many feed their pets first, even if they are hungry themselves.
Food Safety Net
One important feature of pet food banks is that people and their pets have a safety net.
The goal of pet food pantries includes a long-term effort to keep pets and pet owners together.
Since 2010, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) designed its grant programs around free pet food.
The ASPCA has awarded $400,000 in grants to 121 organizations for pet food pantries, banks, and other resources.
Services from pet food banks offer a safety net to help people keep their pets rather than give them up to rescue shelters.
Some people criticize the need for pet food banks when so many humans are hungry. But animals touch our lives in many ways. For example, I grew up in a dog family. To me, cats were a mystery, hard to read and understand.
When I adopted a rescue cat, it created another layer of beauty, joy and love in my life. Pets teach use kindness, love, patience and understanding.
When we bring pets into our lives, they become our family members. And sometimes we all struggle with financial hardships.
We see homeless people on the street with their favorite dog by their side. Sometimes I wonder how homeless people can take care of their pet.
There is no denying the bond between animals and humans whether we have money or not.
Pets give us comfort, emotional support, lower stress and blood pressure, and can be your best friend. I’m happy that more pet food pantries are finding ways to keep families together.
A list of pet food banks and pet resources include:
- Generation Wags
- Pets of the Homeless
- ASPCA resources for grants for pet food banks ASPCA and Food Bank For NYC Working Together to Help Pet Owners Gain Access to Pet Food & Vital Vet Care
- How you can help pet food banks Pet Food Pantries: What They Are and How to Help
- Are you having trouble affording your pet?
Dr. Pet Mom
“A house is not a home without a pet.”
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