Beyond Disasters: Food Equity and Justice for Puerto Rico

Joey Hentzler
November 22, 2022

The territorial status of Puerto Rico is a significant barrier for U.S. citizens and residents on the island struggling with hunger — the people of Puerto Rico cannot access the same federal safety net benefits as those in the states. Instead, those in Puerto Rico can only receive benefits from the Programa de Asistencia Nutricional (NAP), which is inferior to SNAP in many ways including benefit amounts, predictability, and responsiveness to natural disasters. In emergencies, Congress must vote to authorize funds to expand the NAP block grant and implement Disaster-SNAP, a provision that states and other territories can simply request from the federal government.

Despite these challenges, Puerto Rican decision-makers and advocates are advocating for anti-hunger policy solutions to build pathways out of poverty. MAZON is proud to partner with three organizations on the ground in Puerto Rico — the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Those partners are Espacios Abiertos (Open Spaces), Instituto del Desarrollo de la Juventud (Youth Development Fund), and Centro para la Nueva Economía (Center for the New Economy). Our support support enables these local organizations to hire advocates and dramatically increase their capacity for advocacy, which is particularly critical in Puerto Rico’s highly volatile and competitive job market. 

We are gratified that the Biden Administration wants to transition from NAP to SNAP, which  would more than double the amount of benefits for food-insecure households from $2 billion to $4.5 billion. But, this transition would require a vote of Congress and involve significant local reforms, policy changes, and programmatic decisions. In the meantime, the people of Puerto Rico are struggling and need immediate assistance. That is why MAZON recently led a group of 20 faith-based organizations in urging leaders in Congress to provide emergency funding for nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico.

Learn more about MAZON’s work to illuminate hunger disparities facing the people of Puerto Rico.