Government Advertises Food Stamps

Government Advertises Food Stamps
By: Lauren Keith

Often, here on Heartland News, we bring you stories of job layoffs, displaced workers, and so on.  Unfortunately, that heartache has become all too common in our region, and the government takes note.

Leaders think many working families might be eligible for help like food stamps, and they're doing something about that.  You may have even heard the government plan, already.  Just in the last few weeks, commercials on various Illinois radio stations advertise food stamps!

That might seem strange, especially after all the years we've heard about the Welfare to Work Program and getting people off the government rolls.  Heartland News thought it sounded strange, too, so we went looking for answers.
"We need to make sure all those who are eligible are aware of it, and I think that's the reason for the ads," says Chuck Daugherty, a case manager for the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Daughterty helps working families apply for various government aid, like food stamps.  He says, the cost of living, on average, has gone up in recent years, as well as the number of unemployed workers.

Daugherty and other case work managers believe there are more people eligible for food stamps than are applying, and the state wants to make sure these folks take advantage of the federally-funded food stamp program.

Daugherty says in Jackson county alone, almost 8,000 people could qualify for aid, but approximately only 3700 have applied.  "I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who grew up in the old days and would rather take a beating, as they say, than apply for some kind of assistance," said Daugherty.

He claims, that's part of the reason why in recent years, the food stamp program changed from paper coupon vouchers to a card, which resembles an everyday debit or credit card that's so commonly used in the checkout aisle.

If you're wondering what the government's interest is in making sure people apply for free money now.  "The food and nutrition services really uses the food stamp program for healthcare and nutritional needs as opposed to as a subsidy. So, they're looking out for long-term problems.  We're happy to help people get the nutrition they require," said Daugherty.

Chuck also believes many other states, like Missouri or Kentucky, for example, just may soon follow Illinois' lead and advertise the federal food stamp program. Extended Coverage

Food Stamp Facts

  • The Food Stamp Program was born in the late 1930s, with a limited program in effect from 1939 to 1943.  It was revived as a pilot program in 1961 and was extended nationwide in 1974. The current program structure was implemented in 1977 with a goal of alleviating hunger and malnutrition by permitting low-income households to obtain a more nutritious diet through normal channels of trade.
  • The average monthly participation level in fiscal year 2003 was 21.26 million individuals.
  • The Food Stamp Program is targeted toward those most in need. Of all food stamp households in fiscal year 2003 (the year for which the most recent detailed USDA data are available), 55% contain children; households with children receive 79.3% of all food stamp benefits.
  • 18% of food stamp households contain an elderly person and 23% contain a disabled person. Approximately 88% of food stamp households have gross incomes below the poverty line ($[18,100] for a family of four in 2002). Approximately 38.4% of food stamp households have gross incomes at or below half of the poverty line.
  • The federal government pays 100% of food stamp program benefits. Federal and State governments share administrative costs (with the federal government contributing nearly 50 percent). In fiscal year 2003, total federal food stamp costs were $23.88 billion.

Source:  Federal Food Programs