USDA suggests food stamp parties, games to increase participation
While spending on the food stamp program has increased 100 percent under President Barack Obama, the government continues to push more Americans to enroll in the welfare program.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has embraced entire promotional campaigns designed to encourage eligible Americans to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.
A pamphlet currently posted at the USDA website encourages local SNAP offices to throw parties as one way to get potentially eligible seniors to enroll in the program.
“Throw a Great Party. Host social events where people mix and mingle,” the agency advises. “Make it fun by having activities, games, food, and entertainment, and provide information about SNAP. Putting SNAP information in a game format like BINGO, crossword puzzles, or even a ‘true/false’ quiz is fun and helps get your message across in a memorable way.”
The agency’s most recent outreach effort targets California, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and the New York metro area with radio ads.
The ads have been running since March and are scheduled to continue through the end of June — at a cost of $2.5 million — $3 million, CNN Money reported Monday.
CNN Money further noted that the USDA began running paid radio ads in 2004, under President George W. Bush, who oversaw a 63 percent increase in average food stamp participation.
In the 1970s, one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps. Today one our of every seven receive the benefit. After the recession, the ratio is expected to hover around one out of every nine, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Despite the high rate of food stamp participation, the USDA has numerous blueprints posted on their website aimed at getting more people to enroll in SNAP. A 2009 State Outreach Plan Guidance explains why the agency believes states should adopt strategies to get more people on the rolls:
Outreach Can Help Increase Participation in SNAP Resulting in Multiple Benefits for Participants, States, and Communities: SNAP is the cornerstone of the nation’s nutrition safety net and an investment in our future. SNAP offers the opportunity for improved nutrition and progress toward economic self-sufficiency for participants who become stronger members of the community. However, too many low income people, especially seniors, working people, and legal immigrants, who are eligible for SNAP do not participate and thus forego assistance that could stretch their food dollars and help improve their nutrition.
According to the USDA, greater food stamp usage can be an economic plus for states and communities.
“Every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates $9.20 in an additional community spending,” the USDA contends in their outreach guidance. “If the national participation rate rose five percentage points, 1.9 million more low-income people would have an additional $1.3 billion in benefits per year to use to purchase healthy food and $2.5 billion total in new economic activity would be generated nationwide.”
During debate on the 2012 farm bill earlier this month, Senate Republicans pushed for amendments aimed at reducing the cost and participation in the food stamp program.
The Democratically controlled Senate voted down Republican efforts — denying amendments targeting the swelling rolls that were introduced by Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, and others from Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions — arguing they could reduce access to those in need.