LaPlaca first to accept SNAP challenge

Published 10:03 pm Tuesday, September 9, 2014

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Editors note:  SNAP is short for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.


Taking the SNAP Challenge had a personal impact on physical fitness expert Dan LaPlaca.  It brought back vivid memories of his childhood when there was not always enough food for his single mom and her five children and of having to receive assistance so they could survive.

Now that LaPlaca has his own successful business, PRO Physical Therapy Health & Fitness in Columbus, he doesn’t have to worry about feeding his family. Yet as he kicked off the area’s Hunger Action Month last week, he quickly learned that with only $31.50 a week to spend (the value of one week’s food stamps for one person). ”You have to carefully plan and prioritize to ensure getting a week’s worth of nutritious and healthy meals,” he said.

LaPlaca and his wife, Carla, accomplished that mission with the SNAP Challenge.  “It wasn’t easy. It made us realize how difficult it is to eat healthy when you have limited income.  However, we proved with this challenge that one can eat healthy foods on a restricted budget.”

His children didn’t participate in the challenge, but LaPlaca says, “They understood when I told them why I couldn’t join them for pizza, and that there are kids in our area whose families can’t afford to buy them pizza.  I also had to give up some of my favorite snacks. One serving of my favorite frozen yogurt cost as much as a whole day’s food budget.”

To meet the SNAP Challenge, LaPlaca refused offers of snacks, a meal out or drinks from friends,  “When I explained why, few realized that hunger was a problem in Polk County. Yet research from Feeding America  shows that 27 percent of the children in Polk County are considered food insecure.”

“To feel what families in need have to go through, I urge everyone to take the SNAP challenge,” LaPlaca said.  “I hear people criticize the food stamp program, but if they take the SNAP challenge, they will better understand and appreciate the challenges of those less fortunate have to face day in and day out.”

Hunger Action Month and the SNAP Challenge are national campaigns sponsored locally by Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry which operates a food bank and other services to help individuals and families in need. “If it wasn’t for Outreach, our problem here would be much more severe than it is today,” LaPlaca said.


“I encourage folks to support Outreach by contributing time, money and canned goods to help them with their mission.”

For information on how you can participate in the SNAP Challenge and/or help Outreach in providing in relieving hunger, contact Wendy Thomas at 828-894-2988.


by Joe Epley