My family used to skip meals

LIVING the American Dream comes with the sacrifice of time and treasure.

For Jimmy Chen, 34, he took his first-hand experience and turned it into a positive to help low-income families.


Jimmy Chen founded the Providers app that helps SNAP seekers manage their money

He remembers a time when his family struggled with food insecurity.

Mr. Chen shared a memory of how his father skipped meals to make sure the family had enough to eat.

These are memories like the one Mr. Chen takes with him on his professional journey.

In 2014, he founded the tech startup, Propel.

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He creates software that helps millions of low-income people every month.

People have access to a free application called Providers.

Those who are part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, receive an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card.

These EBT cards can be linked to the Suppliers application.

His mission to help this population is personal.

Living the dream

Mr. Chen was four years old when his family moved to the United States.

He sat down with The Sun to give a candid look at his life before becoming a tech entrepreneur: “I was a four-year-old immigrant child who came with his parents from China.”

He told how his parents became suspicious of the lifestyle after Tiananmen Square and decided that America would be a new beginning.

The Chen family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, a midwestern state little known for its great diversity in the early 1990s.

His parents did odd jobs to make ends meet.

Mr. Chen said, “There have been good times and bad times. During bad times, food was scarce.

“We have not received any Christmas presents. Money has always been a scarce resource.

Although the family’s income level made them eligible for food stamps, they never received government assistance.

As Mr. Chen explained, “Immigrants were not eligible.

His parents worked to provide a good education and he knew he wanted more.

Mr. Chen then studied at Stanford. Then, a scholarship a few years later allowed him to nurture an idea that fascinated him.

Technology responds to a mission

Mr. Chen explained that there are many tech startups and entrepreneurs “creating software to help people get rich through crypto, find rides, get dates, or do laundry, because these are the challenges they face on a daily basis”.

His fellowship allowed him to use his experiences focused on “the everyday relationships people have in their financial lives and how technology can help.”

Mr. Chen added, “Technology cannot solve poverty.

“A social mission was important. Something to have a lasting impact.

From this idea was born his technology startup, Propel.

He created a free mobile app called Suppliers.

The Suppliers app is free for SNAP applicants


The Suppliers app is free for SNAP applicants

For SNAP recipients, their monthly benefits are loaded onto an EBT card that functions like a debit card.

It can be used at authorized SNAP retailers to purchase healthy foods.

The Suppliers app helps EBT cardholders access their own information to check balances.

The Suppliers app helps SNAP applicants track their EBT balances and transactions


The Suppliers app helps SNAP applicants track their EBT balances and transactions

Free from suppliers

The Suppliers app does more than provide balances.

As Mr. Chen explained, “Vendors are like the rewards program for the EBT card.”

It gives EBT cardholders access to discounted deals for cell phones, broadband, ways to get cheaper healthcare, job offers and more.

Mr. Chen’s team organizes the discount deals with other companies that also have a mission to help low-income families.

Suppliers app offers discounts to SNAP applicants


Suppliers app offers discounts to SNAP applicants

The providers name came about because Mr. Chen said that a large majority, about 80% of their users, are parents and he has repeatedly heard how “they want to be a good provider for their children”.

Mr. Chen added, “Our most powerful tool was able to go beyond just checking your balance.

“It was to give people a sense of dignity.”

How do you qualify for SNAP?

In the United States, more than 41.5 million Americans receive SNAP benefits each month.

You must apply for SNAP as is where you live and meet certain bank balance limits.

The total amount of SNAP benefits your household receives each month is called an allowance.

SNAP households should spend about 30% of their own resources on food.

The USDA indicates that the maximum monthly allowance is based on household size.

For example, for a family of four, the maximum award is $835.

Each state has a different application form and process.

Benefits are paid on a specific day each month, depending on your condition.

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About Stuart M. McFarland

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