NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Food Stamps Go Begging

August 2, 1999

Washington bureaucrats and politicians are mystified by the drop in food-stamp rolls. The fact that the decline in food-stamp participation coincided with welfare reform has led some to theorize that the working poor are unaware that they continue to be eligible even after they exit welfare rolls.

According to a General Accounting Office report to be issued today:

  • Participation in the $16 billion-a-year Department of Agriculture program has fallen 27 percent in the past three-and-a-half years -- to 18.5 million people.
  • Between 1994 and 1997, 2.5 million children left food- stamp rolls.
  • In 1997, children accounted for half of the total enrollment decline.
  • At the same time, Catholic Charities reports that demand for food assistance rose by an average of 38 percent in local parishes last year.

Researchers say they see evidence families leaving welfare and joining the ranks of low-income, working families are trying to make in on their own.

Nevertheless, the trend so concerns some politicians that legislation is being drafted in both the House and Senate to revise eligibility requirements to include more low-income families, to ease state roadblocks regarding eligibility and to open channels between food banks and social-service officials.

The USDA has also launched a public information campaign to publicize the availability of food stamps to families.

Source: Shailagy Murray, "Drop in Food-Stamp Rolls Is Mysterious and Worrisome," Wall Street Journal, August 2, 1999.


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