Food pantries step in – Working poor not getting benefits

The drastic drop in food stamp participation is placing a burden on nonprofits, the Christian Science Monitor reported July 14.

“There’s now way we can keep up with the demand…of people leaving the program,” Doug O’Brien, director of public policy and research at America’s Second Harvest, told the Monitor. Second Harvest is the largest domestic hunger-relief group in the U.S.

The food banks of the Chicago-based nonprofit turn away 1 million people a year, even though donations of food are up by one quarter, or 210 billion pounds a year, since 1996.

The United States Department of Agriculture released a new study the week of July 10 showing that food stamp rolls had fallen from 27.5 million in 1994 to 18.2 million last year.

The booming economy explains 35 percent of the drop, according to the report.

Poverty experts worry that the decline is the product of overzealous welfare reform. State welfare systems are discouraging poor people from signing up for food stamps, advocates say. Welfare reform only accounts for 12 percent of the drop, however, the report says.

The USDA was unable to explain the rest of the decline. Whatever the causes, one result is clear: Nonprofit food pantries report that their clientele is growing.

For full story, see Christian Science Monitor.

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