FOOD STAMP PROGRAM REACHING MORE OF THE NATION'S NEEDIEST FAMILIES AND CHILDREN
In a report released today, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced that in 2005, 65 percent of all who were eligible participated in the Food Stamp Program (FSP), compared with 54 percent in 2001. Since 2001, the FSP has grown to serve 9.4 million additional low-income people needing nutrition assistance.
"No one should go hungry in America. Through our 15 nutrition assistance programs we reach one in five Americans each year and we recognize on this Hunger Awareness Day that even more can be served," said Johanns. "We have increased our nutrition assistance budget by 70 percent since 2001 and we proposed that the 2007 Farm Bill do even more to increase access and participation in USDA programs to help those in need."
In addition to food stamps, the other major nutrition assistance programs have seen increases since 2001 - 1 million additional children have been added to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), 1.3 million to the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and 700,000 women, infants and children have been added to the Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
These vital programs work together to form a national nutrition safety net that helps to meet the needs of children and low-income people in a variety of settings. For example, among food stamp households with school-age children, 88 percent received a free or reduced-price lunch and 68 percent received a free or reduced-price breakfast. Among those with children under age 5, 64 percent participated in WIC.
Today's report highlights the recent growth in the FSP - the largest Federal nutrition assistance program, and the nation's first line of defense against hunger. In 2005, participants received 80 percent of all food stamps available if every eligible person participated. This means that people eligible for higher benefits - typically those with lower incomes - were more likely to participate, a good indicator that the program is reaching those most in need.
In 2005, more than 25 percent of food stamp recipients, 6.5 million people, received the maximum benefit for their family. Fewer than 3 percent of the 25 million food stamp recipients in 2005 received the minimum benefit.
Food Stamp benefits are a vital supplement to the food budgets of the more than 26 million low-income individuals now participating in the FSP each month. For example, a family of four could receive as much as $518 a month to supplement its food budget, larger families even more.
To ensure access to all who are eligible for the FSP, USDA works with state and local governments, faith- and community-based organizations, food banks and food pantries to provide and encourage outreach, streamline and simplify program rules and award grants.
USDA's 2007 Farm Bill proposes to improve access to food stamps by excluding college education and retirement savings accounts when determining eligibility for benefits and eliminating the cap on dependent child care expenses. Over the next 10 years, to improve nutrition for all who benefit from nutrition programs, USDA proposes $2.75 billion to purchase fruits and vegetables for all programs and an additional $500 million in fruits and vegetables for USDA school meals programs.
For more information on USDA's nutrition assistance programs, visit our website at www.fns.usda.gov.