Mesker Park Zoo announces free admission to those on SNAP

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Summer break is almost here, leaving many families to find entertainment.

Mesker Park Zoo is now offering a new program which gives some families an opportunity to enjoy the zoo for free.

The zoo initiative is being offered to people who receive SNAP benefits. SNAP provides food benefits to people living on low or no incomes.

The zoo is getting funds to do through organizations like the COVID-19 Crisis Response Fund of the Greater Evansville and the Indiana United Way.

“They get free and discounted membership. You also get our newsletter, you get discounts on some of our other programs, like events, special events, or summer camps. But the main perk is obviously getting to come to the zoo whenever you want for as long as you want, anytime you want,” Erik Beck, Mesker Park Zoo Director.

Beck says families need this type of joy now more than ever.

“Your blood pressure goes down, you get to walk around, you get to see animals, you get to really connect. And that really is something that should be available for everybody for their quality of life, for communities quality of life.”

The discounted rate includes a five-dollar annual membership while the standard yearly membership fee is sixty-five dollars.

Those on SNAP can also receive free admission for one full year.

But some people say the program should be inclusive of all families.  Kelly Enriquez has four kids which she says making a day at the zoo expensive.

“You know, whether you’re on SNAP, whether you’re not, I mean, especially if you’re not paying for things full price. I mean, it’s not cheap. And I mean, you know, it’s covid. It made it really hard,” said Enriquez.

One mother said a Mesker Park Zoo membership was something they purchased right away after moving to evansville from New York, she believes the initiative is good for the community.

“I absolutely think that the more equitable and fair it can be and an accessible to everyone evansville, the better. And it’s a great zoo,” said Stacey Yen.

“We’re seeing that a lot of people are really glad to see this happening,” said Beck.

Recent stats show that Evansville has over 18,000 residents who participate in SNAP.  Those who are interested in the yearly membership can come by the zoo’s membership gate starting Thursday.

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