Nutrition Assistance Serves Record 35 Million; More Could Be Helped
Sep 03, 2009
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that in June 2009, a record 35,122,123 people received Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP; formerly called Food Stamps) benefits. This represents an increase of more than 700,000 individuals from the previous month-which set a record- and an increase of more than 6.4 million people compared with the prior June. This shows that nutritional assistance is responding appropriately to the increased need created by the current deep recession.
However, states should do even more to reach families who need nutritional assistance. In recent years, nearly one-third of eligible families did not receive benefits. Moreover, some states, even now, have particularly low participation rates by those who are eligible. States can reach more low-income families through outreach, streamlined application and recertification procedures, and by using "categorical eligibility" to eliminate barriers to participation such as asset limits.
Further, providing families in need of nutritional assistance with SNAP benefits is a cost-effective way for states to fight poverty in this time of limited budgets because the federal government covers 100 percent of SNAP benefit costs.
Earlier this year, Congress recognized SNAP as a safety net program and, in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, allocated funding for a temporary increase in benefits, worth $80 a month for a family of four. Economists widely agreed that increasing SNAP benefits was one of the most effective ways to stimulate the economy, as the money is spent rapidly in local stores.