Voices of Hunger: Camille Cyprian
For many individuals struggling to put food on the table, SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; formerly known as Food Stamps) can be just the help they need to make ends meet. So why are only 65 percent of Minnesotans who are eligible for SNAP currently utilizing the program? Often, the arduous application process is complex enough to prevent applicants from accessing this much needed resource. This is where the Second Harvest Heartland SNAP Outreach team becomes so crucial.
Camille Cyprian, SNAP Outreach manager at Second Harvest Heartland, diligently works with her team of SNAP outreach specialists to streamline the SNAP application process as much as possible. Camille is quick to credit her team for the success they have seen. Over the past year alone, the number of SNAP applicants the team has assisted has doubled from years previous. But credit for this success also lies in the support, knowledge and resources Camille provides to her staff along the way.
Since joining Second Harvest Heartland in 2011, Camille has immersed herself in SNAP regulations and policy changes. “I love information. I love to read. I love to know things,” she says. “In order to provide support for my team I need to know the policies and regulations. I need to be able to answer the questions they might have, and they need to know this information to continue to grow.”
Camille goes on to explain, “It’s important to be ‘in the know’ about policy—this helps us to be a leader in our field because policy trickles down into the work that we do. It is important to be up on what’s new in order to provide the best customer service and make the [application] process as seamless as possible.”
This approach has successfully allowed Camille’s team of SNAP Outreach specialists to spend less time on policy, and instead focus their efforts on developing strong relationships with people seeking help. The support Camille provides to her team is instrumental to their success, as SNAP specialists work hard to make connections with their clients. “When county workers cannot get ahold of SNAP clients, they call us, because they know we can get [in contact with] them,” says Camille. “We have built that relationship and rapport with the clients.”
With more than 1 in 10 of our neighbors at risk of missing a meal tonight, programs like SNAP outreach are more important than ever. The problem of hunger isn’t a resource problem, but rather an access problem. There are barriers preventing our neighbors from accessing the fully funded programs they need to live healthy lives—and programs like SNAP Outreach work to break down those barriers and connect more people with more food in their time of need.