The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps to stretch food budgets, but often accomplishes much more than that. For many recipients, it serves as a stepping-stone on the path toward a successful future.

Louise Novak, Nutrition Outreach and Education Program (NOEP) Coordinator for Schenectady County, recently shared the story of a family aided by SNAP in their journey toward financial independence.

Novak first met the family at the Schenectady Inner City Ministry Food Pantry, where she helps eligible people apply for SNAP. At that time, the husband, “Salim,” worked outside the home while the wife, “Fatima,” cared for their two young daughters. The couple were unable to make ends meet on Salim’s wages, so Novak helped them secure SNAP benefits. The monthly supplement to their food budget provided much needed relief, but the couple still struggled to make ends meet.

When Fatima’s mother moved from Guyana to live with the family, there was another mouth to feed, but her presence also offered an opportunity. She could help take care of the children while Fatima worked outside of the home.

Novak told Fatima about a nursing program at a local community college that gives students the opportunity to work while completing their education. Fatima applied and was accepted.

“You would have thought that she was accepted into like an Ivy League college,” Novak recalled. “She came running in to me to show me, ‘I’m going to school!'”

Fatima kept Novak up-to-date on her progress, but her visits to the food pantry became less and less frequent. One day, Novak commented on that.

“She grabbed me and hugged me and said, ‘I don’t have SNAP anymore because I have money!'” Novak recounted. “So now, she’s actually working and she’s going to nursing school. She showed me pictures of her girls and everything is wonderful. I’m sure it’s still a struggle, but she is so happy and feels so good about herself.”

The NOEP Program, managed by Hunger Solutions New York, is one of the largest SNAP outreach programs in the nation, serving nearly every county in New York State and all boroughs of New York City. NOEP offers community-based outreach, education and SNAP application assistance to eligible New Yorkers.

NOTE: The names of the SNAP recipients in this story have been changed to respect their privacy.