Tags: food | stamps | assistance | economy

CNNMoney: Government Wants More People on Food Stamps

By    |   Monday, 25 June 2012 09:43 AM

The government wants more people on food stamps. Even though the number of people using food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP, is near a record level, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says many people qualify for the program but don't use it, CNNMoney reports.

The USDA is broadcasting free public service announcements and spending between $2.5 million and $3 million on advertising in several states and the New York City area to educate people about the programs eligibility requirements, according to CNNMoney.

Participation, it says, is particularly low among the elderly and legal immigrants.

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Food-stamp use increased during the recession.

Already, one in seven Americans or about 46.4 million people are on food stamps, just below the all-time record set in January. But the USDA says over one in four Americans are eligible but don't use them.

"Millions of low-income seniors struggle to afford life's necessities like food and medicine," Stacy Dean of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told CNNMoney. "Enrolling in SNAP can help ease that struggle."

The stimulus act President Obama signed into law eased eligibility requirements and increased the benefit by about 15 percent through 2013, but food stamp use had been increasing for years and the Bush administration ran a recruitment campaign that increased participation by 63 percent, according to CNNMoney.

Not happy about the USDA campaign, Republicans want the program trimmed, especially in light of the growing federal deficit. The government spent over $75 billion on food stamps in fiscal year 2011, compared to $34.6 billion in 2008.

"We ought to be looking for ways to save money in the program, not to encourage more people to use it," Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute, CNNMoney reports.

The types of food and drinks that food stamps can buy are also controversial. They can be used to buy unhealthy items like energy drinks, potato chips and processed meat, writes health expert Jillian Michaels in an editorial for the Times Union in Albany. Limiting items to healthy food like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, he argues, would combat obesity and encourage stores to stock healthy food.

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