The Storm Over Food Stamps Eligibility

Reviewed: August 19, 2014
By FinanceWeb

Who Is Eligible For Food Stamps?

Some eligible persons are military families,and the children of America’s bravest who risk everything for everyone; others are full time workers for wealthy, powerful corporations who must persist on a minimum wage that is not an effective living-wage. There are heroes and villains in every play, and political actions and social attitudes have created a national drama over food stamp eligibility. In the furor over these benefits that rises and ebbs like a tide, the ultimate purpose has been obscured; the United States is a Nation that believes every man, woman, and child has a right to food, water, and shelter.

A Critical Role

Food stamps have become a staple for many families, and this includes the poor, the working poor, and in recent years, a significant number of military families. Some focus on the situation of apparently able-bodied persons who receive food stamp assistance. While this is a fair criticism of the programs, it does not reveal enough. The Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAPS replaced food stamps as the primary federal program against hunger in America. It has safeguards against exploitation, including provisions that-
• Define need and eligibility in terms of income and assets.
• Limit able-bodied adults to a short term of benefits, approximately 90 days.
• Require eligible, able-bodied adult household members must seek and accept employment.
• Require enrollment in employment training aimed at acquiring marketable job skills.

Why The SNAPS Program Exists

The Hunger Prevention Act of 1988 was a key part of the history of SNAPS. It was an effort to create a system that would ensure adequate nutrition to families and children. Based upon years of research and well-established legislative findings on hunger it was an answer to the real and persistent problem in the United States. During the period 1968 to 2014, the number and percentages of Americans facing food insecurity increased dramatically from one in 20 to nearly one in 6.

Today, food insecurity exists side by side with full-time employment and full participation in the greater society. Rather than a condition of homeless street people, it affects schoolchildren, college students, and families struggling on the lower ends of the wage scales. The Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program fills a void in transitional economy where many people fell from middle class levels to marginal incomes. Many full time workers in manufacturing and retail qualify for food and other federal supports. However, one must consider the major beneficiaries of the program include farm and retail food interests.

Living On $5 Per Day

The federal government sets standards for eligibility based on status and income levels. For example, a family of one adult and three children can be eligible with a monthly net income of less than $1,963 and a gross monthly income less than $2.116. The maximum benefit would be $632.00 to feed a family of four for one month. However, the average benefit is approximately $4.50 per person/day. At approximately $18 dollars per day, the food allowance for a family of one adult and three children would require exceptional planning and below market food prices to meet modest nutritional standards for twelve servings of meat, milk, vegetables, and related items. On a per person/day basis, the average of $4.50 per day would not provide an excessive amount of food, nor luxurious items. Some famous examples of lawmakers and others attempting to live on food stamp allowances have illustrated the vast difference between food assistance recipients and the American norm

Sources:

USDA, Food and Nutrition Service, SNAPS Guidelines
http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligibility

Walmart Workers on Food Stamps
http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/04/15/report-walmart-workers-cost-taxpayers-6-2-billion-in-public-assistance/

SNAPS Income Eligibility Rules
http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files//FY14_Income_Standards.pdf

Food Insecurity Affects Millions of Americans
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/07/140716-hunger-america-food-poverty-nutrition-diet/

Military Use of Food Stamps Increase
http://money.cnn.com/2014/02/17/news/economy/military-food-stamps/

CEO Lives on $4.50 per day
http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/25/opinion/shaich-food-stamp-challenge/