Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Many Families Miss out on Crucial Food Stamp Benefits

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Many Families Miss out on Crucial Food Stamp Benefits

Article excerpt

Cities face significant challenges in helping connect eligible low-income families and individuals to the federal Food Stamp Program, according to a recent report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).

The study, "Food Stamp Access in Urban America: A City-by-City Snapshot," provides an overview of food stamps and hunger in 24 of the nation's largest urban areas.

According to the report, Americans in urban areas are more likely to suffer from hunger and to pay more for food. In 2004, 15 percent of households in the surveyed cities did not have a sufficient diet, compared with 11 percent of households in the entire U.S. population.

However, only 66 percent of people surveyed in the 24 cities who were eligible for food stamps were actually receiving them. This left almost $2 billion in food stamp benefits unclaimed in these cities.

Food Stamp Program

The federal Food Stamp Program aims to provide access to nutritious food for all Americans through electronic benefit transfer cards that allow low-income individuals to purchase food at grocery stores. For those living below the poverty line, which includes one out of every four children in most of the reviewed urban areas, food stamps can be crucial to preventing hunger.

Yet families living in many urban areas face multiple barriers to claiming food stamp benefits, such as language issues, lack of knowledge about the program and how to obtain benefits and concern about a stigma associated with using food stamps.

There are a number of strategies cities can use to increase food stamp participation rates, thereby bringing unclaimed federal dollars into the community. These include targeted outreach campaigns in multiple languages and using technology to connect individuals to benefits.

"Research shows that each dollar in federal benefits generates nearly twice that in economic activity," said FRAC Legal Director Ellen Vollinger. …

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