Food Stamps Alliance

Taking on the Stigma around Food Stamps

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Why is SNAP and WIC Recipient Population Growing?


The federal government is spending a lot of money on supplemental nutritional programs. When you combine what is spent on the traditional food stamps program or SNAP, in addition to what is spent on WIC, which is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). SNAP provides food assistance for households that do not have the means to obtain necessary nutritious food, whiles the WIC program provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk. The key question is why these programs are seeing increasing number of people. The WIC program for mother and infants alone caters to some 9.1 million women, infants and children through over 10,000 clinics nationwide. In 2013, the Maryland WIC program served over 143,000 women, infants and children each month. If you want to know more about the WIC program, watch the video below.

Since the great recession started in 2008, there has been an increase in the number of people needing food assistance under the Food stamps program,  otherwise known as SNAP benefits program. The SNAP program is run by the United States Department of Agriculture to help eligible needy individual and families by nutritious food.  As a result of the recession, and it’s associated record number of people unemployed, under employed and  long term unemployed, there has been a resultant dramatic increase in the number of food stamps recipients.

The numbers are shocking.  One is  every seven resident of the United States is on food stamps which means that about 15% of the American Society is receiving some form of help from the US government to help buy food for themselves and their families. Specifically, as of April 2013 47,548,694 people are on SNAP benefits,  which is a 2.8% from 2012.  This makes the program one of the federal government’s biggest social welfare program. Among states, Mississippi has the largest share of people relying on food stamps with 22% of the state’s residents getting food assistance while Washington, DC holds the record at 23%. The following states have 20% of their population on food stamps – Oregon, New Mexico, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky,  while Wyoming had the smallest share of its population on food stamps at 7%.

As the economy has started to improve and the unemployment rate goes down, it is easy for our politicians to think it is time to scale some of these program back. However, when you dig deeper into the data, you will find that the recovery is not as broad as it should be. For example, one of the things we know is that more people are finding part time work, versus full time employment. That means that although they have started working and have joined the workforce, they are under-employed. This means that they may have not returned to the income they had before the recession and will still require some government assistance to meet their nutritional needs. As the Politifact link above explains, there is a lot to be learned about this recovery and policy makers need to dig deeper before they start to cut aid to people who may still need them.

Oct 12, 2014

Top 3 FAQs about Food Stamps


From our last article, we presented data showing that there are record numbers of people on public food assistance (food stamps or SNAP Benefits) and we explained why we think this number has been fairly high and remains high despite the improvement in the US economy and all the talk about recovery. Today, we want to talk about the top most asked questions on the food stamps program and our answers to them. Here they are:

1. How do I Qualify for Food Stamps

To find out if you qualify for food assistance, you have to contact your state’s agency that is responsible for the program. Even though the SNAP benefits program is a federal program, it is administered at the state level. The qualification criteria is generally uniform and set by the federal government through the United States Department of Agriculture. However, states are free to set their own additional requirements beyond the federal guidelines, which some states have attempted to do. For example the state of Georgia wanted to require drug testing for food stamps applicants, which was rejected by the Department of Agriculture.

2. Can you get Food Stamps and be Employed

There is a big misconception that only people who are unemployed or lazy apply for food stamps. There is also the general belief that most people getting food assistance are getting it to help an elderly person or a child in their household. However, there are more people employed that are receiving help with food assistance than there are children or elderly people on the program. That speaks to the magnitude of the problem and why there should be no shame in applying for the program. So, the answer is yes, you can apply for SNAP benefits even if you are employed. As the video above shows, there are growing number of people on food stamps in the middle class now – highlighting the devastating effects of the recession.

3. What Can I Use my EBT Card to Purchase

The EBT Card is the card that people on food assistance get to make their food purchases. It is a prepaid debit card and the money for food aid is deposited on the card so you can use it to buy food like any other debit card you have in your wallet. However, there is one difference. You are only allowed to use this card to purchase a specific list of food items, unlike say the Social Security Benefits Prepaid Debit Card, which can be used to purchase whatever the recipient wants to buy . Since the goal of the program is to help people get food they absolutely need, it is understandable why you cannot use the card to purchase food at restaurants or hot foods. Here are the foods you can buy using your EBT Card:

Households CAN use SNAP benefits to buy:

  • Foods for the household to eat, such as:
  • breads and cereals;
  • fruits and vegetables;
  • meats, fish and poultry; and
  • dairy products.
  • Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.

In some areas, restaurants can be authorized to accept SNAP benefits from qualified homeless, elderly, or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals.

As you can see, this is not a list that allows you to buy “luxury” food items but the basic necessities that you absolutely need.

Filed under EBT Debit Card, SNAP
Sep 13, 2014