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North Dakotans on SNAP



Sonny has a list of medical conditions few people would envy. Her disabilities allow her $45 a month in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. But despite the benefits and visiting local food pantries, she finds it difficult to pay all her bills at the end of each month and lives in constant fear that one day her electricity will be shut off. A little additional help through SNAP would make a big difference.


Eating well-balanced, nutritious meals is important for Sonny, age 61. It’s one more way for her to keep her body healthy.

Two years ago, she became disabled and unable to work. She is on medication for depression, severe anxiety, blood pressure, cholesterol, and her thyroid. She also has been diagnosed with pre-diabetes.

Since her disability payments were approved, Sonny receives $45 a month in SNAP benefits.

The food assistance doesn’t go far as Sonny wants to buy frozen vegetables, frozen fruits, cheese, and yogurt. If she can, she’ll also purchase meat.

“I’d prefer fresh fruits and vegetables,” she says. “But I can’t eat them fast enough because I’m alone. With frozen produce, I can portion it out and it will last. I can use more of it.”

Sonny wants to eat healthy foods, but the cost of these foods makes it challenging. Sometimes she will purchase frozen, ready-made meals because they’re easy and can cost less than buying all the ingredients. Sometimes she’ll buy a bag of tortilla chips or potato chips as a treat.

“But with my underlying health issues, I try to keep more healthy foods in my kitchen,” she says.

In addition to receiving food assistance, Sonny visits local food pantries at least once a month. Once she takes those items into account, she still struggles to pay for all of her grocery needs. Most months she prioritizes food over her utility bills. This means that she gets behind on payments to the latter.

“I’m getting to the point where I’m scared they’ll turn the electricity off,” she says. “It is scary.”

With a little more in SNAP benefits, Sonny says she’d pay more on her utility bills. In turn, that would decrease her anxiety and stress. She constantly worries that someday she’ll wake up to no lights or running water.

“I’d be in a better place if I could pay (that bill) off,” she says.


© Great Plains Food Bank 2021