For-profit firms jam up food stamp delivery

Extreme poverty and hunger is growing across the country. Yet, a majority of states don’t reach their entire eligible populations because of Republican-era privatization, according to a government report.

Today, nearly 6 million people have no other income than food stamps, a figure that has risen by over 50 percent over the last two year according to the New York Times.

The Times writes 1.2 million of food stamp recipients are children. The national food stamp program is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Over the last year, the Cincinnati Inquirer reports, “3.4 million additional children went on food stamps” rolls. 

Due to the ongoing effects of the great recession the increase in overall numbers is devastating many regions of the country including, Florida, New York, California, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Michigan to a name a few. The Times writes, “The numbers have nearly tripled in Nevada over the past two years, doubled in Florida and New York, and grown nearly 90 percent in Minnesota and Utah. In Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit, one of every 25 residents reports an income of only food stamps. In Yakima County, Wash., the figure is about one of every 17.”

The victims are racially diverse: over 40 percent are white and the number is growing.

With the social safety net in tatters and welfare nearly eliminated, food stamps, along with unemployment compensation, are one of the few lifelines for the most destitute.

As of October, 40 million people were receiving food stamp aid with over 10 million new entrants since the recession began.  The program is administered federally.

The economic stimulus program has provided a modest $80 boost for a family of four. The average monthly benefit per person is around $130.

These increases may belie the depth of the actual problem. The USDA reported that hunger, termed “food insecurity” by the government, has increased significantly in 2008. By government measures nearly 50 million in the U.S. are going hungry on a daily basis. Nearly one in four of these are children. David Beckmann, the president of Bread for the World, a U.S.-based anti-hunger group that also carries out programs in poor countries, told the InterPress News Service, “What should really shock us is that almost one in four children in our country lives on the brink of hunger.” 

In these circumstances, it is feared that many of those most in need are going without. Federal studies show that only 18 states provide food stamp aid to 70 percent or more of those eligible. 

Most states provided inadequate and some grossly inadequate assistance. The website writes, “The department released an annual report on food stamp enrollment and eligibility showing that just 18 states enrolled 70 percent or more of those eligible for food stamps in 2007, the time period covered by the report. Dozens of states failed to reach some of the country’s most needy citizens.”

The article continues, “two states — Wyoming and California — had fewer than 50 percent of those eligible enrolled to receive food stamps. Many of the states that struggled were among the most populous, including New York, where 61 percent of eligible citizens participated; Florida, where 57 percent participated; and Texas, where 55 percent were enrolled.”

The U.S. government pointed to Republican privatization of parts of the food stamp program as the source of the problem. “It specifically criticized states where private firms, rather than state workers, processed enrollment. ‘We believe that the outsourcing of key … processing duties to for-profit organizations is an unwise use of state and federal resources that undermines program accountability,'” reports the Cleveland news website.

Texas was one of the worst, also due to privatization. “The problems date back to the failed 2005 privatization of the agency, which resulted in a five-year slide in how quickly and accurately the state processes food stamp applications.” 


Joe Sims
Joe Sims

Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA. He is also a senior editor of People's World and loves biking.