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 lower:
- 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 eligible households.
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