Northfield, Minn., November 29, 2011 — Food stamps have been replaced by food electronic balance transfer (aka debit) cards. Low income people now get nutrition assistance when the government adds a monthly balance to their electronic account. When their food money arrives, people immediately head to the store to refill food supplies. Midnight runs help replenish food stocks that run out.
It is a new twist on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Perhaps it could be called Food Day for the 46 million people who benefit from national food support. So many people shop immediately when they get their monthly benefits that it rivals more famous shopping days.
The NBC Today Show aired a clip after Thanksgiving featuring a Wal-Mart executive and profiling two families to illustrate the relationship between receiving the food support and mobbing the store. Wal-Mart adds staff to accommodate shoppers in Utah the first day of the month when U.S. food benefits are available.
Over the past two years food support in the United States has increased 37%. Now 15% of people are eligible and 46 million participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp program, NBC News).
SNAP provides a monthly benefit for low-income people to purchase food. Accepted at most grocery stores and a growing number of farmers’ markets, benefits are provided on an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, similar to a debit card.
Balances are put onto cards on a schedule monthly date. People know when to expect them. In Minnesota, money for food benefits is accessed over the first two weeks of a month. Unlike Utah, here it is more like the November and December mini-shopping mega deals than Black Friday.
The United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service say it “helps put healthy food on the table for people.” Some skeptics question the need for food support. Others say that poor nutrition leads to even more costly health problems. And if food is taken care of, dollars can be used for housing and transportation.
The United States has a safety net for food in place. If you wish to see if you are eligible for food support, each state has a Hotline. The people on the telephone will help you see if you are eligible for SNAP or other assistance. If you know of individuals or families who are going hungry, please share this information with them.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday were outstanding revenue days this year, according to media reports. Maybe this is a sign that our economy is getting stronger. May jobs and benefits be more plentiful for more workers so that Food Day can become a thing of the past.
Eight Federal Food programs are supported by the United States Department of Agriculture through the Farm Bill (Source: Department of Human Services of Minnesota, 2011).
Food Support (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp program)
Food Support provides a monthly benefit for low-income people to purchase food. Accepted at most grocery stores and a growing number of farmers’ markets, benefits are provided on an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, similar to a debit card.
WIC serves low-income pregnant women, postpartum mothers, and infants and children under 5. WIC provides vouchers to buy specific food, as well as nutrition education, referrals and access to health and social services. WIC also includes the Farmers’ Market and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs.
The National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs provides low-cost or free breakfasts and/or lunches to children at school. Free and reduced-price meals are based on each family’s income. If a family participates in SNAP or WIC, the children also may qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.
Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) helps child and adult care providers serve healthy meals and snacks each day as a regular part of their day care. CACFP also serves at-risk children age 18 and under who are residents of emergency shelters or participants in afterschool programs.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) distributes food packages to Mothers and Children (MAC) and the Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors (NAPS).
Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) distributes food to American Indians on and around reservations.
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) gives meals to students during the vacation months when they do not have access to lunch or breakfast at school. Meals are provided at summer programs run by schools, churches, camps, park and recreation departments, and other community organizations.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) distributes commodity food via the food bank network to on-site meal programs and over 300 food shelves.
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