Resources for Food Stamp Regulations
by T.A. Workman
The problem of hungry families in America was never more prevalent than during the Great Depression in the early 1930s. Those desperate times warranted government assistance, but it came hurriedly and without the proper tools to administer aid where it was needed most. The U.S. food programs were born from infrequent food handouts and trial programs. Though slow to develop, initiatives such as the Food Stamp Program finally caught up to the needs of a nation and continued to adapt using technology and research.
Food Stamp Programs
The term "food stamps" refers to a federal program of the United States Department of Agriculture now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program is administered at the state level and involves debit cards usable at most grocery stores.
The program, developed to address the nutrition of low-income families, encourages nutritious foods based on what purchases the cards allow. The concept: Feed the hungry and teach nutrition.
The Food Stamp Program originated in the 1930s and provided benefits in limited geographical areas through 1943. The program was rejuvenated in 1961 as a pilot program and in 1974 went nationwide. The original programs dispersed food sporadically. It wasn't until 1977 that the program was revised to allow recipients to purchase food at grocery stores.
Qualifying individuals cannot have more than $2,000 on hand ($3,000 if over 60), be it cash or in the bank, with the exception of Social Security Income, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits or retirement accounts. Income guidelines vary per household size and are available by accessing the SNAP Eligibility Guidelines link. Benefits range from $200 to $1,200 per month with additional provisions for households exceeding eight individuals.
Food stamps are part of a federal program but are regulated at the state level. States are given flexibility to enforce regulations. Many states tie their food stamp programs to employment, requiring unemployed individuals to seek work while receiving benefits. States generally assign their own name to their food stamp program.
The USDA's Food and Nutrition website (www.fns.usda.gov) provides comprehensive resources for food stamp regulations. Accessing the Programs and Services tab provides a link to the food stamp or SNAP program (or use the link to go directly to SNAP). For those without a computer, the USDA recommends looking in the telephone directory's governmental listings under food stamps, social services, human services or public assistance.