Food Stamps - A Clarification
Dateline: 08/29/99Shortly after Food Stamp Facts (8/22/99) went online, I received a thoughtful letter from a reader suggesting that the story conveyed a negative opinion of the food stamp program. I can see how one might interpret the article in that way. Without reading the GAO report referenced in the article carefully, the food stamp program could be cast in a villainous role. I apologize for that, because "negative" was not my intent.
A careful reading of the GAO report on disqualified persons receiving food stamps reveals that the potential number of disqualified recipients nationwide represents a very small percentage of the number of fully qualified persons helped by the program. The GAO report also states that many cases of disqualified persons found on food stamp rolls are due to failures by state governments to regularly update and compare their food stamp roll computer databases with those maintained by the Federal Government.
The fact of the matter is, far too few people are currently participating in the food stamp program than too many. In 1998, 10 million people in America lived in hungry households.
Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman, spoke to this fact at the Roll-out of the USDAs Food Stamp Education Campaign on August 17, 1999 in Baltimore.
Secretary Glickman noted that the last several years of economic growth with reduced unemployment had allowed many people to leave the food stamp program.
"On its face," stated Secretary Glickman, "a drop in food stamp participation should be a good thing. Food stamps were designed -- and have always been used -- as a short-term solution...a transitional tool, not a lifestyle."
"But that's only part of the story" continued the Secretary. "If you look closely at the numbers, you'll see that the food stamp rolls are actually declining five times faster than the poverty rate. Which means that there are many people out there who qualify for food stamps...but, for one reason or another, are going undernourished rather than take advantage of the program. What's more, many of those people are among our most vulnerable -- the elderly, children and legal immigrants."
USDA figures show that total participation in the food stamp program has declined from 27.5 million cases in 1994 to 18.5 million in 1999. While most Americans would guess the food stamp rolls to be growing, those figures show a 33 percent decrease in 5 years.
The main problem, according to the USDA, is one of a lack of understanding of the food stamp program on the part of the public. Besides some "bureaucratic and administrative barriers," Secretary Glickman said USDAs research indicates that many people simply do not know that they are eligible for food stamps while many more believe that being ruled ineligible for welfare also means disqualification for food stamps.
The President's initiatives are designed to make it easier for qualified households to get the help they need, while the USDA education campaign will educate the public, merchants, and state and local officials about the realities of the food stamp program.
Compared to other US social maintenance programs food stamps provide the most basic, necessary form of assistance a human being could need with overall efficiency and effectiveness.
For More Information on Food Stamps
If you would like to receive more information about the Food Stamp Program, call the USDA Food Stamp Hotline at: (Toll-Free) 1-800-221-5698 - 24hrs. Leave your name and address. Complete information will be sent to you by mail.
Also, see: State Food
Stamp Information/Hotline Numbers
Listing numbers (most toll-free) in each State.
The largest charitable hunger relief organization in America, they support 188 regional food banks serving all 50 States and Puerto Rico, distributing over one billion pounds of donated food and groceries every year