FNS provides grants to non-profit organizations and others to
improve access to SNAP by low-income persons and families.
The purpose of outreach grants is to implement and learn more about
effective strategies to inform and educate potentially eligible low income
people, who are not currently participating in the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP), about the nutrition benefits of the program,
eligibility rules, and how to apply.
State and local food stamp offices and for-profit organizations are not
eligible for these grants. Applicants receive up to $75,000 per grant for
outreach activities lasting for 1 to 2 years, depending on the project.
The SNAP is the cornerstone of the nation’s nutrition safety net. It is
the largest of the USDA’s 15 domestic nutrition assistance programs. The
SNAP provides crucial support to needy households to buy the food they
need for good health, and helps low income people make the transition from
welfare to work and become self-sufficient. Participants in the SNAP are
provided a monthly allotment of benefits via an electronic benefits
transfer (EBT) card, similar to a bank card, which is used to purchase
food at participating food stores. Communities benefit from the economic
impact of food stamp redemption in local stores. Every dollar of new food
stamp benefits generates a total of $1.84 in community spending. FNS
manages the SNAP at the Federal level. Each State administers the SNAP
according to the rules and regulations set forth by FNS.
Over the last two decades participation in the SNAP among people who are
eligible for benefits has closely followed the pattern of poverty in
America. As the number of persons in poverty rose, participation in SNAP
grew. In March 1994, participation reached a peak of 28 million people
nationwide. By July 2000, participation dropped to a low of 16.9 million
people. In addition, changes in program policy have influenced
participation in SNAP. The proportion of eligible people participating in
the SNAP increased from 54 percent in 2001 to 67 percent in 2006. During
that time, SNAP participation increased by more than 9 million persons.
Much of that was caused by a larger number of eligible people; the rest
was caused by an increased participation rate among those who were
eligible. This means that the SNAP is severely underutilized. Nationwide,
approximately 33 percent of people who are eligible for the SNAP do not
participate. The participation rates for certain subpopulations are even
• In 2006, approximately 2 million seniors (60 years of age or older)
received food stamp benefits, representing 9 percent of total
participants. The participation rate for seniors in the SNAP in 2005 was
30 percent. Only one-third of eligible seniors participate in the SNAP.
• Additionally, Hispanics are an underserved population in the SNAP. In
2004, one of seven people in the United States was of Hispanic origin.
Research indicates that Latino families are more likely to live in poverty
than white, non-Hispanic households. In 2005, the participation rate for
Hispanics in the SNAP was 54 percent. In 2006, about 19 percent of all
food stamp participants were Hispanic.
There are many reasons why eligible people, including seniors and
Hispanics, do not participate in the SNAP. These include unawareness of
eligibility, confusion about program rules and requirements, a complex
application process, and a lack of transportation and pride. Participation
barriers can be unique to different populations. According to FNS’s Office
of Research and Analysis, seniors may not participate in the SNAP because
of the perceived low monthly benefit or because of fears of giving
personal information to people they do not know. Hispanic persons may not
participate because of language barriers, concerns about their immigration
status, or their work schedule.
FNS has awarded outreach grants for several years as a significant part of
the national outreach effort to increase program participation among
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