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Hunger Free Colorado sets up shop in an Aurora Save-a-Lot

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Hunger Free Colorado opened a satellite office today at the Save-a-Lot at 15220 East Sixth Avenue in Aurora.

Why is the project so needed?

Consider the ignoble distinction Colorado earned in 2009: The state was ranked first in the country for lack of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamp, participation. Only 42 percent of those eligible in Colorado were receiving food aid, with nearly half a million people missing out on the federally funded benefits.

"One of the guiding principals of our organization's leadership is to find the people where they are at," says Katherine Moos, public affairs and development manager for the program. "So if people need food, and they are at a food store, it's one of those great things." Grocery-store owners also have incentive to provide HFC with space, since more food stamps generally result in customers having more money to spend.

While the money comes from the federal government, states determine their own method of administering benefits. In Colorado, that means a 26-page application, the longest in the country, and delays that are often longer than federal stipulations. Another big issue is that those eligible often don't know that they could be receiving up to $200 per individual, per month; the average in the state is $141 per person.

HFC staff can't approve just anyone for SNAP and an Electronic Benefit Transfer card (the debit card-like system that has replaced paper food stamps). Applicants have to go to the county human services office for a final interview and approval. However, HFC will be pre-screening applicants, so that people know if they're eligible and can start working through the application process.

From the time human services receives an application for food assistance, legally it must process it within thirty days. The counties, which are responsible for administering SNAP in Colorado, are backlogged due to a combination of increased demand, a temperamental, seven-year-old computer system, and an inability to hire more staff. "The caseload for county workers is enormous," Moos says. HFC officials hope this new office will not only make it easier for applicants to understand eligibility and the application process, but will shorten waits for interviews and approval too.

To apply at the Aurora Save-a-Lot store office, bring identification such as a birth certificate or social security card, proof of residency, proof of expenses like childcare and rent, and income information. The schedule for the rest of the month is as follows:

Sunday, September 11: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, September 12: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, September 17: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, September 19: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, September 25: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, September 26: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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