Just in Time for Summer, mRelief Launches Summer Meal Sites via SMS

Backed by the release of summer meal site data by the USDA and Twilio, mRelief’s web and text messaging application now tells families ineligible for SNAP where to get a summer meal.

Chicago, IL —(ENEWSPF)–June 20, 2016.  Today, mRelief, the Chicago-based technology nonprofit, launches a feature that empowers families with knowledge about what summer meal site is nearest them. Live in 42 states, summer meal sites will be available for families who are ineligible for food stamps through mRelief’s web and text messaging platform.

“This text messaging feature is very helpful because a lot of families, including myself, need assistance,” said Michelle Villasenor an Executive Assistant and Mom based in Chicago, Illinois who found out she was likely ineligible for the food stamp program on mRelief. “Even if you have a good salary, it’s still pretty challenging to pay everything you are supposed to.”

mRelief’s SMS tool provides access to food assistance in 42 states simply by texting one’s ZIP code to 1-844-877-6111. Then families can first check their eligibility for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), the program commonly known as food stamps. If ineligible, families are directed to their nearest summer meal site. If eligible, families are directed to the site nearest them or resource that helps with the SNAP application process.

“No child should go hungry simply because summertime is here.” Executive Director of mRelief Rose Afriyie. “Through innovative technology, we are making summer meal sites for families text messages away.”

The launch coincides with increasing data transparency on the part of the Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA), specifically with respect to the SNAP. The USDA first published SNAP requirements on in a machine readable format in March. With the USDA updating the developer tools for summer meals sites this past May, mRelief can now help families connect to the best and closest food resources in their community.

“We are excited to see that the SNAP eligibility requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Categorical Eligibility Dataset and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) files and API, are being put to great use on accessible platforms for American families,” said Bobby Jones, Sr. Advisor and Acting Chief Data Officer at the US Department of Agriculture. mRelief also provides this service through the support of which supports access to communications technologies that help make a real impact.

Integrating summer meals into mRelief’s food stamp platform makes sense because SNAP is already making a difference in the lives of so many children. A 2015 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed that between 2011 and 2013, 2.1 million children were lifted out of poverty because of food stamps. However, 7.5 million Americans are eligible but currently not receiving the benefit. Also, in America today, an estimated 22 million children are recipients of free or reduced meals while schools are in session. Yet, 4 out of 5 children will lose access to this benefit over the summer. Thus, backed by data released by the USDA, mRelief is making summer meals text messages away for parents trying to identify the site nearest them.

“I know that it is difficult for a lot of parents to find different foods for their kids when they are hungry,” says Abigail Grossen a mother from Roscoe, Illinois who received SNAP after finding out she was eligible through text messaging. “mRelief is a useful service that was helpful for people like me trying to get food stamps.” In 2015, self-assessment tools were deemed by the The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as “Very powerful outreach tools to eligible individuals who do not know or believe that they qualify for SNAP.”