December 12, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) makes it possible for hungry families to purchase food that is essential to their well-being. Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, SNAP is cost-effective and reaches the neediest households. Income-eligible program participants, having been screened by the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare, receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer ACCESS Card that is used just as a credit card is used at point-of-purchase. An eligible household’s income may not exceed 130% of the federal poverty guideline but, in fact, most food stamp households have incomes well below the maximum allowed.
The most vulnerable populations make up the vast majority of SNAP recipients. 76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. The average monthly SNAP benefit per person is $130, or less than $1.50 per person, per meal. If you’ve shopped for yourself, your family, or your emergency food pantry, you know that the average monthly benefit is inadequate to fill the need.
Benefits are based on the Thrifty Food Plan, a national standard for a “nutritious diet at a minimal cost,” (USDA). The Center for Hunger-Free Communities and Children’s HealthWatch conducted a survey in Philadelphia. Their report, “The Real Cost of a Healthy Diet: 2011″ found that, “The overall average monthly cost of the items on the Thrifty Food Plan shopping list in all stores surveyed, was $864 (29% above the maximum SNAP benefit). Further, the report asserts that, ” A family of four who receives the maximum SNAP benefit would need to spend an additional $2,352 per year on average to purchase the Thrift Food Plan market basket items.”
According to SHFB’s 2011 Hunger Study, published this fall, 60% of the people interviewed in emergency food pantries and soup kitchens participate in SNAP; this is a 33% increase over results from the 2007 Hunger Study. While this increase results, in part, from increased, successful outreach, the program remains inadequate as 73% of our respondents reported that they exhaust benefits before the end of the month. Typically, food stamps last for three weeks of the month. Pantries and soup kitchens often see an increase in requests for help in the last week of the month.
Newspaper articiles and television programs have trumpeted the myth that SNAP is rife with fraud. Do dishonest people try to cheat the system. Sure. Nevertheless, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service published a report, cited by Feeding America, on error rates for SNAP in July 2011. “SNAP error rates declined by 61% from FY1999 to FY2010, from 9.86% to a record low of 3.81%. The accuracy rate of 96.19% (FY2010) is now at an all-time program high.”
Feeding America continued with these facts: “The national rate of food stamp trafficking declined from about 3.8 cents per dollar of benefits redeemed in 1993 to about 1.0 cent per dollar during the years 2002 to 2005. As you may have read in local news, USDA is aggressively enforcing individual cases of trafficking, but while there are individual cases of program abuse, for every one allegation of fraud, there are hundreds of stories of heartbreaking need.”
The best way for an individual or family to find out if they’re eligible is to submit an application. SHFB offers an outreach service to assist with SNAP applications: Call the hot line, 1-866-203-3323. Kathryn Hoffman, Outreach Coordinator, will be happy to help.
If you agree that SNAP is an important program for needy families, please ask your member of Congress to protect SNAP as budget negotiations continue. You can phone the Washington office or email through the elected official’s web site listed here.
Representative Tim Marino 202-225-3731 https://marino.house.gov
Representative Lou Barletta 202-225-6511 https://barletta.house.gov
Representative Charlie Dent 202-225-6412 https://dent.house.gov
Senator Pat Toomey 202-224-6324 http://toomey.senate.gov/
Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. 202-224-6324 http://casey.senate.gov/