Elderly And Disabled People Will Get Welfare Food Delivered Soon

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The U.S. government is testing a way for home-bound people to receive food deliveries through the food stamps program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) started a pilot program that will deliver food purchased with food stamps, also called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, to elderly and disabled people, the agency announced Wednesday.

USDA plans to provide, “services that purchase and deliver food to households in which the head of household is an individual who is unable to shop for food, and who is 60 years of age or older, or physically or mentally handicapped, or otherwise disabled,” the announcement said.

“Home delivery of groceries will help ensure that elderly and disabled SNAP participants who are unable to shop for food have access to the nutrition they need to maintain a healthy diet,” said Kevin Concannon, undersecretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services agency. “Home delivery is particularly important for seniors living in rural areas because America’s rural population is older than the nation overall and rural seniors experience higher poverty than others.”

Even though one in every five people who receive food stamps is elderly or disabled, USDA is concerned that people over 60 years old aren’t getting the help they need. There are a lot more elderly people who could be receiving the benefits, but aren’t.

Of the people older than 60 who could receive food stamps, only 42 percent actually sign up for the benefits. Eighty-three percent all people who are eligible for the welfare program receive food stamps, USDA noted when it first announced plans for the home delivery last summer.

USDA selected five pilot organizations from different areas of the country for the first leg of the program, which the agency has been planning since the last Farm Bill passed in 2014. Under the Farm Bill, Congress expanded definition of retail food stores — the only type of store that can legally accept food stamps — to include “food purchasing and delivery services.”

The pilot organizations must provide free delivery of the food. They must also ensure that food stamps recipients only purchase eligible food items through the service, according to the Congress’ stipulations in the Farm Bill.

The home delivery pilot is only available to home-bound people over 60 and mentally or physically handicapped individuals. The online food stamps stores the USDA is also currently testing could be available to all food stamps recipients.

Robert Doar of the American Enterprise Institute told The Daily Caller News Foundation that he is somewhat concerned that delivering food to SNAP recipients risks cutting people off from socially beneficial contacts, but said food delivery could be a better alternative to costly home healthcare.

“If you’re talking about people with physical and mental handicaps who aren’t getting out anyway, this might be a good idea,” Doar told TheDCNF in an interview.

According to Doar, who managed welfare programs for the state of New York between 2007 and 2014 as commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration, the year-long pilot project is a good way to test the program. “The government has a bad habit of providing assistance before finding out how much it costs,” Doar said.

“I would be supportive of a pilot test, to see how it works and how much it would cost,” he added.

Other than any new food stamps subscribers attracted by the delivery service, the additional taxpayer cost of the food delivery pilot project is zero, a USDA spokesperson told TheDCNF. The pilot organizations can use their own funding, or charge for the delivery service.

“USDA is not providing additional grants to participating organizations for the trial period,” the spokesperson said. “Delivery service costs must be low or no charge for SNAP recipients,” and the fees “may not exceed 25 percent of the order total.”

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