Applying Racial Equity to U.S. Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs - Flipbook - Page 25
• Improve equity-centered practices within FDPIR to encourage eligible Indigenous people to participate.
Distribution centers should be upgraded in order to operate using a grocery store model. While some centers do offer a
shopping type of experience, others simply distribute boxes of food, with clients given little or no choice as to what foods
they receive. The latter group of distributors need resources and funding to establish and manage spaces where clients select
from items on view. FDPIR policies have not kept pace with technological advances or with the growth of the program.97
FDPIR should also ensure that written policies allow each geographical area to have its own traditional food options.
Currently, there is only one traditional food for an entire region of the country. This means, for example, that blue corn
mill, indigenous to the southwest, is also the only “traditional” food option for people in the northern plains, even though
it is not traditional there and few people are familiar with cooking with it. FDPIR should explore ways to support local
communities in implementing their own ideas for continuing regional food traditions.
Strengthen hiring, training and accountability of caseworkers
People of color experience racial discrimination in virtually every aspect of life. This is due to structural racism (see
glossary), which is embedded in all of our societal systems. It is sometimes very subtle and can go unnoticed and unchecked.
This is not to assign blame, but instead, to assign responsibility to us all. Applying a racial equity lens means not only
countering structural racism at the policy design level, but also at the implementation stage.
SNAP recipients report incidents of racial discrimination from SNAP caseworkers as well as from grocery clerks and
other frontline staff. Instances include racist comments during interviews with caseworkers and discriminatory treatment in
grocery stores. Such experiences indicate a need to strengthen linguistic and cultural competence and cultural humility
Experiences with discrimination exacerbate the shame that people who are eligible for nutrition program benefits often
already feel. Racist incidents may deter eligible people from applying for SNAP, or current participants from returning to
stores to use their benefits. Discrimination could even be a factor in applicants of color being turned down when they are in
fact eligible. Quantitative data on this is not collected, so there is a need for further investigation, since any such instances
immediately affect children and families.
• Require SNAP caseworkers to have both anti-racism and implicit bias training. Anti-racism training will enable people
to relate to SNAP participants without being judgmental or subscribing to stereotypes (see glossary), but it is just a first
step. People who work with recipients need ongoing training in implicit bias. These requirements should apply to every
• Build in accountability. Training is not enough to break down institutional and interpersonal racism. Accountability
mechanisms must hold staff, including caseworkers, accountable. Each office and grocery store should be required to
publicize its formal complaint process. It should be clear to participants that these complaints will be taken seriously and
answered by more senior staff. Doing so will help counter historical trauma (see glossary) from systems that have failed to
be responsive to communities of color, in addition to fostering trust and encouraging participation. All complaints should
be investigated and staff appropriately counseled and disciplined.
Applicants who are discriminated against should have some form of immediate recourse without fear of retaliation—particularly
in the form of being turned away from the program in the future. Interviewees reported that applicants who are denied must
often wait a long time before they are allowed to reapply. In the meantime, their families run out of grocery money.
• Take steps to ensure that current and/or former recipients are equitably represented among caseworkers.
Proportional representation among staff of those who have faced hunger and food insecurity is critical to equitable
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