The Food Bank of Northern Nevada, a charity which seeks to end hunger in Nevada, launched a program to help people in rural Nevada communities apply for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits on July 25.

The program centers around a toll free phone number that people in the rural areas can call to get help applying for the benefits. The number is 1-888-304-7627.

“We’re just trying to get one more resource out to folks who are further away who may not have access to a welfare office or this information,” said Jocelyn Lantrip, a spokeswoman for Northern Nevada Food Bank.

Lantrip said she didn’t know exactly what was required to apply for the benefits, but that the application was eight pages long and involved an interview with a state welfare official, or one of the technicians the food bank has hired for the job.

“It’s a complicated process,” Lantrip said.

Eligibility for SNAP benefits is primarily based on income and expenses, she said. One of the advantages of the new program is that it helps people in rural areas get help applying for benefits without requiring them to make long and costly trips.

“It’s significantly helpful for them to be able to call a number and talk to somebody about applying for benefits without having to drive a long distance,” Lantrip said.

The Food Bank of Northern Nevada, which Lantrip said funds the boxes of commodities distributed by the Consolidated Agencies for Human Services in Mineral County, hopes that raising awareness of SNAP benefits will help families who have to make difficult choices about how to spend their money.

“We found that a lot of people would have to choose between medicine and food; or rent and food. And if more of your food needs are met you can spend more of your income on other needs,” Lantrip said.

Hunger is still a very real problem in America, Lantrip said, and is exacerbated in Nevada. The numbers are especially stark among children.

“One in four children does not know where there next meal is coming from, necessarily,” Lantrip said. “They’re not getting their nutrition needs met. The statistics of children that qualify for free and reduced lunch are even higher.”

Lantrip would not expand on where this statistic came from, or what it means to know where one’s next meal is coming from. “We’ve seen very unbelievable increases in children being hungry because of unemployment and the recession. It has impacted Nevada greatly,” she said.

When the recession began in 2008, Lantrip said, the food bank saw a sharp increase in the number of families it was providing food to.

Between the summers of 2007 and 2008, the food bank served 70,111 people. Over the past nine months, the center has fed an average of 89,000 people each month.

While the increase in service from the economic height of the mid- 2000’s is staggering, Lantrip said in the past few months the number of people the bank was feeding has started to “level off.”

“We have a long way to go before we really see it declining,” she said.

Nationally, hunger is measured using food security, a term coined by the Department of Agriculture to more precisely discuss hunger.

People who are food secure have enough food for all members of a household to have an active, healthy lifestyle. People who don’t have enough food for such a lifestyle are considered food insecure.

A 2011 study by the Department of Agriculture found that about 6.8 million households nationwide were food insecure in some way.

Of those, 27 precent reported that an adult in the house didn’t have enough money to eat for an entire day. SNAP is the newest incarnation of a program formerly known as foodstamps.