Thursday, September 13, 2001

Food Stamp Applications Down, But Hunger Continues, Relief Group Says, Family Services Report

Food Stamp Applications Down, But Hunger Continues, Relief Group Says
By Pamela Appea
Family Services Report, Nutrition
September 13, 2000
Copyright 2000 by Community Development Publications

Hundreds of thousands of eligible recipients are passing up food stamps so they can avoid missing work, waiting on long lines at the county welfare office and filling out lengthy and intrusive applications, a report finds.

Over the past four years, food stamp applications across the U.S. have decreased by more than 33% to a participation rate of only 17 million people in the first quarter of 2000, says America’s Second Harvest, a hunger relief organization based in Chicago.

Marcus Fruchter, senior policy associate, at America’s Second Harvest, says the demand for food remains constant, with 31 million people in the U.S. “food insecure”—hungry or at risk of going hungry.

Fruchter says he’s hopeful low food stamp participation rates won’t affect the program’s funding. He says aggressive outreach to vulnerable populations will help make food stamps work better before its reauthorization in 2002.

“The obstacles the poor and the hungry face to become self-sufficient are often daunting enough for most people,” the report says. “Federal rules and state administration should not be creating a red tape divide for needy and hungry people.”

Second Harvest recommends federal policy makers simplify and shorten food stamp applications so more eligible people will apply.

While the strong economy accounts for some of the decline in food stamp applications, one-third of people potentially eligible for the food stamp program don’t participate the report says.

People who are eligible for food stamps feel discouraged by red tape and the stringent application process, the report says. To compensate, more are relying on help from charity groups and food banks like Second Harvest.

The survey finds 29 states and the District of Columbia have food stamp applications 10-36 pages long. And some applications ask for detailed information on children’s income and bank accounts; income from baby-sitting; charity and gifts from churches and synagogues and income from panhandling; bingo winnings, plasma donation and garage sales, the report says.

Info: 800/771-2303; For a copy of the report, USDA, 202/770-3631.