NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Are The Poor Turning To Private Aid Rather Than Food Stamps?

February 26, 2001

Use of food stamps among the poor is declining, even as private food distribution banks are seeing a sharp increase in demand for assistance.

  • Food stamp rolls have tumbled to 17 million people from 24.9 million at the time of the 1996 welfare overhaul law.
  • A Department of Agriculture study last year made news with the finding that at least 12 million people -- including at least 1 million children -- are not receiving food stamps even though they are eligible.
  • In Ohio, for example, 80 percent of the state's eligible poor received food stamps in 1994 -- a proportion which fell to 59 percent last year.
  • The Census Bureau has estimated that 3.7 million households experience hunger as a result of not having enough money for food -- and that 9.7 percent of households cannot reliably afford all their basic food needs.

Meanwhile, America's Second Harvest -- the principal nonprofit source for food banks across the country -- reports doubling the amount of food it distributes, to two billion pounds in the last two years.

Source: Elizabeth Becker, "Millions Eligible for Food Stamps Aren't Applying," New York Times, February 26, 2001.

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