US Citizens depending on the government to pay for their food is at an all-time high. The White House now estimates that an average of 40.5 million people, which more than an eighth of the population, will get food stamps each month.
Don't expect a reversal anytime soon as the figure is projected to rise to 43.3 million in 2011, reports the Boston Globe.
Design new food stamps/coupons which may cheer up or upset the people who use them.
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This contest is fueled by the following news: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as the program to issue food stamps / coupons is a federal program to help unemployed and low-income citizens in USA. The US Ministry for Agriculture monitors the program. Presently, the major portion is distributed with the help of plastic cards; however, paper coupons with denominations of 1, 5 and 10 US dollars were earlier used for this purpose. Specified food stamps could be used for buying any products in shops (for example, it was possible to buy soft drinks or confectionery). In the late 1990s, paper coupons were replaced by debit plastic cards called special EBT systems and due to this, the mention of food stamps disappeared from the program name in 2008.
As of March 2009, food stamp aid was received by 33.2 million citizens the highest number from the time of initiating the program. The average monthly grant per citizen constituted $113.87 USD.
To receive household food stamp aid, it is necessary to conform to specific criteria, first of all, with respect to income.
US Secretary for Agriculture Henry Agard Wallace and the first program administrator Milo Perkins were instrumental in chalking out the first Food Stamp Program. Here is what Mr. Perkins had to say about the necessity of upholding the program:
"The country is divided by gorge. Farmers with surplus products are on one side of it and on the other side – the underfed urban population with stretched out hands. We should construct a bridge over this chasm."
The following principle is the basis of the food stamp program: citizens, receiving welfare payments and buying edible products on it, received an additional 50 % subsidy from the state, which in turn, could be used for buying additional food products. Orange and blue colored paper food coupons were used for the program. Commencement of the program - May 16, 1939, total number of aid recipients - 20 million, maximum number of recipients who received subsidy - 4 million, total cost of the program - $262 million. The program was curtailed in the spring of 1943 when the situation in the country stabilized.
After curtailing the food stamp program, discussions continued in the Senate for a long period about the necessity of its resumption and the program was recommenced in pilot mode on May 29, 1961. From 1964, the food stamp program received constant status and from 1974 – national status. Program conditions changed and most significant changes were incorporated in 1977, 1993, 1996 & 2002.
The main objective of the food stamp program of the discounted purchase of products is to improve the nourishment quality amongst low-income citizens. However, as practice has shown, the families receiving food coupons did not buy food products - the majority of the households, which saved money due to the exchange of coupons, spent the saved money on other things.
Corruption and cheating cases were unearthed as in any gratuitous money distribution system. The citizens, participating in the food stamp program, started hiding their additional income in order to receive state aid as usual. Despite a ban on exchange of food coupons for cash, coupon recipients often entered into an arrangement with sellers and sold them the coupons at a discounted price, for example a $400 coupon was sold for $200. It is aprofitable even for the recipients of coupons – he gets ready cash instead of products and the seller receives full cost of the coupon as compensation from the budget.
Every ninth American uses food coupons. In March, due to the recession, 591 000 more citizens were compelled to use the benefits within the frameworks of the federal program of additional food grants.
The Food Stamp Program, worked-out in 1960s, aimed to improve nourishment and increase the purchasing capacity of low-income families with respect to groceries. Coupons can be used only for payment towards products, drinks, seeds and plants for food crops. Food Stamps cannot be used for purchasing alcohol, tobacco products, pet food, soaps, tooth-paste, toilet paper, un-prescribed (OTC) medicines and other non-food items irrespective of necessity.
In March, the total number of program participants increased by 2 % and stood at 33.2 million. The average monthly grant is $113.87 per person. In comparison with July 2000, when the number of participants on the program was at a minimum for the last decade (16.8 million), the figure was doubled. Since last autumn, the recession took place in the American economy and employment opportunities were reduced by 6 million from the beginning of 2008.
In 1999, plastic cards were used instead of paper food coupons. Every month, transfer onto the card is done automatically. Calculation is done with the help of reader like in the case of bank cards. Issue of plastic cards is not only applicable to those who are living in extreme poverty. The program is also available for those whose incomes slightly exceed the bottom line of the official cost of living, defining the poverty level.
For the 48 continental states and the Columbia district, the poverty level for households consisting of 4 members was $22050 income per annum in 2009. Similar figures for Alaska - $27570 and Hawaii - $25360.
From April, the grant amount was increased thanks to measures taken by Congress to boost the American economy. So a family consisting of 4 members can now receive $80 more. According the data from the Food Research and Action Center, every eighth citizen is a welfare recipient.
To be eligible for the food card it is necessary to adhere to some conditions, including financial and non-financial parameters. Cumulative income of a household should be less than 130% from the bottom line of the cost of living, defining the poverty level, net income - below 100% except for households with elderly and disabled persons. The value of accounted property (for example, cheque and savings accounts, cash, shares and bonds) should not exceed $2000.