The Neighborhood Developers has been working to overhaul our approach to financial education. A previous VISTA undertook research to help identify a path forward to increase the impact of our classes. VISTA John Murray is playing a key role in helping us define, pilot, adapt, and learn from the application of behavioral science principles to our work. He is managing the overall learning process, personally developed and launched a financial education class that meets certain internally-developed requirements, offers insights based on his experience of course delivery, and provides feedback to others on their own classes. This is an experimental year for us, and the work undertaken now by our VISTAs is helping us set a new direction for an area of work that we long felt needed it. John is simultaneously developing project management skills while moving an important new piece of work forward.
The Neighborhood Developers has helped community members access public benefits for several years, but our reach has been far outpaced by the magnitude of the "SNAP gap," i.e. the estimated number of families eligible for food stamps who are not accessing this important source of support. Last year the State changed its criteria for allocating formula funding to low-income school districts, with the result that many school districts are seeing funding cuts unless they can demonstrate that their low-income families meet the new definition. One way to meet the definition is by receiving SNAP.
With this alignment of interests, TND has partnered with the public school system to help identify eligible school families and help them through the application process. Jarelis Fonseca, who has learned the SNAP application process backward and forward, is our point person for monitoring this pipeline and improving the process, from handoffs to tracking, so we can assist more of these families.