The SNAP/Food Stamp Program is the largest nutrition assistance program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The goal of the program is to alleviate hunger and malnutrition…by increasing food purchasing power for all eligible households who apply for participation. Through the electronic benefit transfer systems (EBT), the use of food stamp coupons is no longer the means in which a client receives their benefits. EBT replaces paper coupons through use of a benefits card, similar to a bank card.
Ohio: Record SNAP/Food Stamp Participation. According to an Akron Beacon Journal analysis of Ohio Department of Job and Family Services data, the number of SNAP/Food Stamp participants in the state’s nonurban counties, which have not traditionally relied on welfare programs, increased 71 percent over the past five years. Three of the state’s wealthiest counties – Geauga, Medina, and Warren – were among the 22 rural and suburban counties in which SNAP/Food Stamp participation more than doubled. Ten counties in western Ohio saw SNAP/Food Stamp participation increase by 101 percent or more, with Van Wert County participation increasing 144 percent and Mercer County increasing 127 percent. More than one in 10 Ohio residents – 1.7 million – received SNAP/Food Stamps in the last fiscal year ending in June.
Michigan: SNAP/Food Stamp Use at Farmers Markets Rises. According to USDA, farmers markets in Michigan saw a 42 percent increase in SNAP/Food Stamp use last year, with the state’s 221 participating markets redeeming more than $1.5 million in SNAP/Food Stamp benefits through the state’s Bridge Card. Since every SNAP/Food Stamp dollar generates up to $1.80 in economic activity, last year’s SNAP/Food Stamp use at farmers markets generated nearly $3 million in economic activity. The increase is partly due to increased awareness among recipients that they can redeem the benefits at farmers markets.
Barriers to program participation remain. Some markets find it difficult to obtain the technology and equipment to accept EBT cards, and many Bridge Card recipients lack transportation to farmers markets. The farmers market association plans to have EBT card capability in at least half of Michigan’s counties by 2015, and have 50 percent of the state’s farmers markets accept Bridge Cards by 2013. (FRAC: www.frag.org)