Tag Archives: food stamps

What I Learned After Taking a Homeless Mother Grocery Shopping

What I Learned After Taking a Homeless Mother Grocery Shopping

Leave a comment

Filed under Spotlights

Food stamps do work

May 31, 2013
A congressional committee is wading through a mountain of paperwork on the farm bill, which includes food stamps.

A congressional committee is wading through a mountain of paperwork on the farm bill, which includes food stamps. / AP

“My name is Trish Thomas Henley, and I’m an assistant professor of early modern literature and culture at the University of Cincinnati. I received my B.A. and M.A. from the University of Idaho and hold a Ph.D. from Florida State University. My first book was published in 2012. I’m also a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati and a mother of four boys.

My current life – as a teacher, volunteer, published author, homeowner and middle-class taxpayer – would not have been possible without government aid. In 1993, I was a single parent with a 3-year-old and an 18-month-old. Even though I was working full-time, making $8.50 an hour as an administrative assistant, I could not afford to pay for food, housing and day care. I went on food stamps. I remember the shame I felt every time I stood at the register while other shoppers waited for me to count out my food stamps.

The only way out of the cycle of poverty and off of aid was to go to college. I applied and, at the age of 25, began my undergraduate career. I had to give up my full-time job to go to school. Instead, I worked three part-time jobs.

I would never, ever have been able to get through school without food stamps, Pell Grants and student loans. It took a village and government aid. I was not a victim. I did not feel entitled. I, then as now, felt immensely grateful that I lived at a moment when my government chose to invest in me. It has been a smart investment. I am grateful that because of this investment I am now able to contribute and live up to my full potential.

Lately we’re hearing a lot about food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as Congress debates the farm bill. We could see anywhere from $4 billion to $20 billion in cuts to SNAP, based on the Senate and House bills, respectively. I am not able to stand by and watch silently while Congress votes to allow people to go hungry while simultaneously subsidizing agribusiness.

SNAP helps lift 50 million Americans out of poverty and puts food on families’ tables – on our neighbors’ tables.

I am telling my personal story because someone needs to talk back to food stamp stereotypes and myths. Somehow, the myths persist and are used to defend the drastic cuts that have been proposed in the farm bill. If we want to save SNAP and other anti-hunger programs, it’s time for a reality check.

Myth: SNAP recipients are inner-city minorities.

Fact: Food insecurity is neither an urban issue nor an ethnic issue. Nearly one in six people faces food insecurity, and they live in every county in the nation. In addition, 76 percent of SNAP households include a child, an elderly person or a disabled person.

Myth: People on SNAP are lazy and sign up for the program so they don’t have to work.

Fact: Eighty-five percent of households with a food-insecure child have at least one working adult. The SNAP benefit formula provides a strong work incentive – for every additional dollar a SNAP participant earns, their benefits decline by about 24 cents to 36 cents, not a full dollar. Participants have a strong incentive to find work, work longer hours or seek better-paying employment.

Myth: SNAP is rife with fraud and abuse.

Fact: Despite steady growth of the program over the past decade, fraud and abuse have been reduced significantly. A 2010 report from the USDA found the national rate of food stamp trafficking (the practice of trading food stamps for cash) declined from about 3.8 cents per dollar of benefits redeemed in 1993 to about 1 cent per dollar.

Myth: SNAP recipients use their benefits to buy alcohol, cigarettes or lottery tickets.

Fact: It is illegal to buy any of these things with SNAP benefits.

Myth: SNAP is an inefficient government giveaway.

Fact: SNAP benefits drive economic growth in every community. Every $1 in new SNAP benefits generates up to $1.80 of economic activity.

These benefits are investments to help struggling families realize brighter futures. My fellow SNAP alumni brothers and sisters are evidence that these investments can pay off over the long run.

I am living proof SNAP can provide the boost a struggling child or family needs to realize the American dream. This program works, and we should all speak up together to protect it.

Please write and call your representatives in Congress and urge them to vote against any cuts to SNAP. These are not just numbers. These are people – people who will go hungry. If we allow Congress to do this, we are responsible for that. You and me.”

Leave a comment

June 1, 2013 · 4:09 pm

From the Mouths of Babes

I’ve been on food stamps since August of last year to help me feed myself while I interned  at a theatre in Louisville, KY. My internship paid me $1000 for 8 months, that’s roughly $30 a week, and it kept me working for over full time (sometimes hitting 60 hours a week). Food stamps helped me make ends meet on top of a $600/mo. apartment plus utilities of $30-80/mo. and phone bills of $80/mo., etc. I got $200/mo. from food stamps which helped out enormously. I view it as the government investing in my future because I’ve paid taxes since I was 15 and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I was lucky to have parents that paid out of pocket for my college education so that I wasn’t saddled with any debt. But, that also means that they don’t have much more left to help me survive now. So, what do you think? Am I part of the entitled poor that are sucking up tax-payers money? – Claire E Jones






Published: May 30, 2013

“Like many observers, I usually read reports about political goings-on with a sort of weary cynicism. Every once in a while, however, politicians do something so wrong, substantively and morally, that cynicism just won’t cut it; it’s time to get really angry instead. So it is with the ugly, destructive war against food stamps.

The food stamp program — which these days actually uses debit cards, and is officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — tries to provide modest but crucial aid to families in need. And the evidence is crystal clear both that the overwhelming majority of food stamp recipients really need the help, and that the program is highly successful at reducing “food insecurity,” in which families go hungry at least some of the time.

Food stamps have played an especially useful — indeed, almost heroic — role in recent years. In fact, they have done triple duty.

First, as millions of workers lost their jobs through no fault of their own, many families turned to food stamps to help them get by — and while food aid is no substitute for a good job, it did significantly mitigate their misery. Food stamps were especially helpful to children who would otherwise be living in extreme poverty, defined as an income less than half the official poverty line.

But there’s more. Why is our economy depressed? Because many players in the economy slashed spending at the same time, while relatively few players were willing to spend more. And because the economy is not like an individual household — your spending is my income, my spending is your income — the result was a general fall in incomes and plunge in employment. We desperately needed (and still need) public policies to promote higher spending on a temporary basis — and the expansion of food stamps, which helps families living on the edge and let them spend more on other necessities, is just such a policy.

Indeed, estimates from the consulting firm Moody’s Analytics suggest that each dollar spent on food stamps in a depressed economy raises G.D.P. by about $1.70 — which means, by the way, that much of the money laid out to help families in need actually comes right back to the government in the form of higher revenue.

Wait, we’re not done yet. Food stamps greatly reduce food insecurity among low-income children, which, in turn, greatly enhances their chances of doing well in school and growing up to be successful, productive adults. So food stamps are in a very real sense an investment in the nation’s future — an investment that in the long run almost surely reduces the budget deficit, because tomorrow’s adults will also be tomorrow’s taxpayers.

So what do Republicans want to do with this paragon of programs? First, shrink it; then, effectively kill it.

The shrinking part comes from the latest farm bill released by the House Agriculture Committee (for historical reasons, the food stamp program is administered by the Agriculture Department). That bill would push about two million people off the program. You should bear in mind, by the way, that one effect of the sequester has been to pose a serious threat to a different but related program that provides nutritional aid to millions of pregnant mothers, infants, and children. Ensuring that the next generation grows up nutritionally deprived — now that’s what I call forward thinking.

And why must food stamps be cut? We can’t afford it, say politicians like Representative Stephen Fincher, a Republican of Tennessee, who backed his position with biblical quotations — and who also, it turns out, has personally received millions in farm subsidies over the years.

These cuts are, however, just the beginning of the assault on food stamps. Remember, Representative Paul Ryan’s budget is still the official G.O.P. position on fiscal policy, and that budget calls for converting food stamps into a block grant program with sharply reduced spending. If this proposal had been in effect when the Great Recession struck, the food stamp program could not have expanded the way it did, which would have meant vastly more hardship, including a lot of outright hunger, for millions of Americans, and for children in particular.

Look, I understand the supposed rationale: We’re becoming a nation of takers, and doing stuff like feeding poor children and giving them adequate health care are just creating a culture of dependency — and that culture of dependency, not runaway bankers, somehow caused our economic crisis.

But I wonder whether even Republicans really believe that story — or at least are confident enough in their diagnosis to justify policies that more or less literally take food from the mouths of hungry children. As I said, there are times when cynicism just doesn’t cut it; this is a time to get really, really angry.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on May 31, 2013, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: From The Mouths Of Babes.”

Leave a comment

May 31, 2013 · 7:44 pm

If I Am Moving, Can I Reapply for Food Stamps in Another State?

By Brooke Julia, eHow Contributor
If I Am Moving, Can I Reapply for Food Stamps in Another State? thumbnail

“When you move, stay in close contact with your new caseworker to make sure your case is handled properly.

The short answer to this question? “Yes.” Of course you have the right to apply for food stamp benefits in another state if you move. The food stamp program — renamed “SNAP” (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in 2008 — was created in 1939 to assist needy families during the Great Depression and became a permanent part of American welfare during the Johnson administration. It’s there to provide help whenever someone needs it, no matter the state. There are certain steps you should take, though, to avoid being guilty of receiving benefits from two states at the same time, and to avoid facing a lapse.

While You’re Moving

  • The California Guide to the Food Stamp Program points out that it’s unconstitutional to deny a person food stamp benefits because she is moving between states. It’s also unconstitutional for an agency to terminate food stamp benefits before the scheduled termination date. This means while you’re traveling, you have the right to continue using the benefits you qualified for in your home state. Your card will work in any of the continental states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


  • Apply for benefits in your new state right away. It can take up to 30 days to get approved for benefits, so the sooner you do it, the better. Waiting can cause a lapse in your benefits. Let your new caseworker know you’re receiving benefits from your previous state, so there is no confusion. Once you’ve moved to another state, the previous state is no longer responsible for providing benefits, according to Life Without Limits.

Overlapping Benefits

  • If you don’t make your new caseworker aware you’re already receiving benefits from another state, you might wind up getting benefits from two states in the same month. While the extra money might be welcome, this is considered food stamp fraud, and you will have to repay it. You may even have to face criminal prosecution, according to Neighborhood Legal Services.


  • There are two exceptions to the overlapping rule. First, an abused person who is fleeing the state for his safety may qualify for expedited food stamp benefits, even if he already received benefits that month. Also, a person who qualified for benefits but moved before he received them and had to have them mailed isn’t violating the rules, according to the California Guide to the Food Stamp Program.”

1 Comment

May 2, 2013 · 5:26 pm