Food stamps help struggling families
A striking one in ten Americans currently use food stamps -- well over 31 million -- but many who are eligible aren't getting help.
Even before the current economic meltdown, stagnating wages and increasing food prices made hunger a problem for more and more Americans. Now rising unemployment threatens to push the numbers even higher. The food stamp program could be an effective tool to fight hunger, but it needs reform.
On "The Takeaway," Ellen Vollinger, from the Food Research and Action Center explains what should be done to make the program stronger: "The structure of the food stamp program is sound, that's the good news. The bad news is how weak the economy is, and how low benefit levels are. The food stamps that people get will help them, but they'll only help them through part of the month because they're set at too low a benefit level amount. And we've been asking Congress, particularly given the weakness in the economy, to help jump-start the economy and help those struggling families by including a benefit increase in food stamps, which by the way are now called supplemental nutrition assistance programs."
According to Vollinger, struggling families should try to find out whether they qualify for food stamps: "The income levels are set nationally. If you are a household of three, your net income for food stamps would probably be about $18,000. That means you could have a higher growth income, but once they look at your expenses -- if you have high shelter costs, high rent expenses, high utilities, high childcare costs -- they're going to take those into account, and that could help you qualify.
"In addition, some states have taken options under the federal program, to actually make it easier -- especially for working families -- to get those benefits. That's true in New York State, that's recently true in Ohio, Pennsylvania; so families really if they're feeling that they're having a struggle making ends meet, they may want to check out either through the helpline that the USDA has nationally -- 1.800.221.5689 -- or they can go on our website, www.frac.org, and they can actually get linked to a tool which will help them pre-screen and determine whether or not their circumstances are such that they could qualify."
"The Takeaway" is PRI's new national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.
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