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USDA Announces Efforts to Increase Nutrition Assistance to Low-Income Families

Release No.
0154.11

Contact:
FNS Office of Communications 703-305-2281

Access and Participation Key to Delivering Benefits for Americans in Need 
 

WASHINGTON, April 6, 2011 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA will award grants to improve access to and increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The grants are for state and local governments and private non-profit organizations to develop projects that simplify SNAP application and eligibility systems and find efficiencies in the administration of the program with the goal of providing critical nutrition assistance to those in need.

"Hunger is unacceptable for anyone in this country – especially our children," said Vilsack. "The Obama administration is dedicated to providing more Americans with better access to the nutrition they need. SNAP is central to ensuring our most vulnerable populations have the opportunity to sustain a healthy diet."

This year, USDA is looking to invest up to $5 million in process improvement efforts that examine local office processes and identify and implement efficiencies. The Department is also interested in funding projects that use technology to achieve procedural changes, such as document imaging, telephone interviews or web-based access to case status information. The deadline to submit grant proposal applications is 5 p.m. EDT on June 6, 2011.

SNAP puts healthy food on the table for over 44 million people each month, half of whom are children. Access to healthy food and nutrition education is key to reducing long term health care costs from obesity-related problems such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure. Formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, SNAP is largest of the domestic food and nutrition assistance programs administered by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. Serving about 1 in 7 Americans over the course of a year, SNAP is the cornerstone of America's safety-net against hunger.

SNAP benefits, which are provided to recipients electronically, also provide an economic stimulus that strengthens communities. Research shows that every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates as much as $9.00 in economic activity. SNAP benefits move quickly into local economies, with 97 percent of SNAP benefits redeemed within a month. It is estimated that at least 8,900 full-time equivalent jobs are created from $1 billion of SNAP benefits.

"These grants are part of a larger effort to end domestic hunger and improve the nutrition of all Americans in need," said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. "The funding leverages our state and local partnerships to better reach individuals at risk of hunger and to increase SNAP participation among eligible households."

In 2009, more than 50 million individuals in the United States lived in food insecure households--over 17 million of them children. These households had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources at some time during the year. SNAP provides crucial support to low income households by enhancing food purchasing power. Increasing access to this important nutrition program will help struggling individuals and families purchase more healthy food.

Working in collaboration with USDA, State agencies continue to enhance SNAP program integrity even as demand has increased in response to national economic conditions. Each State agency is responsible for monitoring and improving its administration of SNAP with the SNAP quality control system determining the accuracy of the eligibility decision and the benefits authorized. The national average level of program payment accuracy for FY 2009 is 95.64 percent, the sixth consecutive year the program has achieved a historically high rate. For the second straight year, the national negative error rate (a measure of denials, terminations and suspensions) also improved.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including SNAP and the child nutrition programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. SNAP, USDA's largest nutrition assistance program helps put healthy food in reach for more than 44 million people each month, half of whom are children.

These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.

Grant applications for organizations can be obtained at www.grants.gov.or on the FNS website at www.fns.usda.gov/snap or by emailing the grant officer at greg.walton@fns.usda.gov.