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SNAP Benefits Ban Forum | Part 1: History and Partnership with Nebraska Appleseed

Part One

The Well has set the intention within our strategic goals to take a more active role within advocacy on issues that directly impact the community we serve. When discussing where to start, our Executive Director, Donny Larson, said

“I can’t say that it was the first issue that came to mind, nor is it really the most detrimental to those we serve of all the injustices that they encounter.  The reason that it is a high priority issue is because of how incredibly arbitrary the SNAP ban is. The idea that food is considered a privilege to be withheld from someone is outrageous and should be considered unnecessarily cruel punishment. There is no other criminal conviction that leads to this consequence and no logical reason for this consequence to be associated with individuals that have drug convictions.”

So what is this SNAP ban and why does it exist?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits bans for drug felony charges can be traced back to the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Enacted federally during a period of heightened concern over drug-related offenses, this legislation introduced a lifetime ban on SNAP benefits for individuals convicted of a drug felony. PRWORA allowed for states to decide to opt-out or modify the ban.

Nebraska’s previous leadership decided the state would opt-in to a modified ban that distinguishes  between possession and distribution felony drug convictions. As it stands today, there is a three-strikes policy* for possession- or use-related felony drug convictions and a lifetime ban for any distribution-related felony drug charges.  * “A person with one or two felony convictions for the possession or use of a controlled substance shall only be eligible to receive SNAP benefits under this subsection if he or she is participating in or has completed a state-licensed or nationally accredited substance abuse treatment program since the date of conviction. The determination of such participation or completion shall be made by the treatment provider administering the program.”

This ban has made the reentry process for individuals with drug charges more difficult. Individuals with felony drug convictions face increased challenges in accessing essential nutritional assistance, exacerbating issues of food insecurity. The ban’s disproportionate impact on marginalized communities and racial disparities within the criminal justice system further amplifies the socioeconomic challenges faced by this population.

Limited access to reliable nutrition hinders the ability to gain employment and reintegrate successfully into society, contributing to cycles of poverty and recidivism.


Our team connected with the wonderful advocates at Nebraska Appleseed, a nonprofit devoted to fighting for justice and opportunity for all Nebraskans since 1996.

They take a systemic approach to complex issues – such as child welfare, immigration policy, affordable health care and poverty.

Megan Hamann, a Food and Nutrition Access Community Organizer with Nebraska Appleseed, connected with us and encouraged the idea to host a small group forum for people we know have lived experience with being “banned” from accessing SNAP benefits.

On December 11th, 2023, we had our first ever small group forum focusing on the stories people were willing to share.

We will be compiling some of their stories, with permission, in Part two of this blog: SNAP Benefits Ban Forum Part 2: The Stories and How You Can Help.

For questions please reach out to The Well’s Director of Development, Dana Wockenfuss: