Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Food, SNAP, Poverty, New York, Social Issues, Government, Participation, Aliens

Pages: 9

Words: 2475

Published: 2021/01/09

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FORMERLY KNOWN AS FOOD STAMPS

Question 1
What is the social problem and/or special need(s) this program is designed to address? Provide a brief history and description of the program.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a food program run by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) to support low income families and individuals. This program was formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. The participants receive an EBT card (Electronic Benefit Transfer Card), which is a monthly debit card and is used for buying food from most grocery outlets (Brownell & Ludwig, 2011).
The Food Stamp Act was proposed in the year 1964 as a part of the ‘Great Society’ program of President Lyndon Johnson. This program aimed to use the agricultural overproduction more effectively and to improve the nutrition levels among low income individuals, which in turn would help in strengthening the economy. In 1977, the Act was revised and a few major changes were brought in. In 1981, this program suffered high budget cuts; however some of the funding was restored in 1988 and 1990. The program faced several ups and downs and numerous changes. In year 2008, a farm bill was passed which increased the federal food assistance program’s commitment by $10 billion in 10 years (Gundersen, et al 2011). This said bill was for the improvement and expansion of the program. Later in the same year, the name of the program was changed to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.
SNAP benefits can be availed to purchase food-items at convenience and grocery stores, as well as in farmers’ markets. The participants need not to spend any cash; they are provided with an electronic benefit card known as the EBT card that works at all these places. Anyone who is eligible can receive the benefits, since this is a federal entitlement program (Leftin & Wolkwitz, 2009).

Question 2

Discuss the target population this program is designed to assist. Include the following data for New York State and New York City: number of program recipients in the most recently reported year, eligibility requirements, and demographic profile of recipients.
The program is designed to assist such families or individuals who are either jobless or have zero or limited income. Legal immigrants below the age of 18, and blind or disabled individuals, can also get the SNAP benefit.
The individuals or families eligible for SNAP benefit must have qualifying low income. This means that individuals or households having a net inflow below 130 percent of poverty threshold can qualify for receiving the benefit. The poverty threshold for FY 2015 is $1,650 per month for a family of three. Hence 130 percent of the poverty threshold is $2,144 per month for the same size of family, summing up to $25,700 per year. However if in a household there is a member aged 60 plus, the value is $3250 per month (Kreider, et al 2012).
Secondly, the individuals’ or households’ resources must meet certain criterion. Generally, these resources are referred to such amount or assets that the households can utilize in purchasing food (like investments and cash) but excludes educational savings, retirement savings, a car and a house. Households having disabled or elderly member should not have assets of value more than $2,250. SNAP benefits are connected to income levels, which means the more a family or individual earns, the lower the benefit (Leftin & Wolkwitz, 2009).
A research packet prepared by the Food Bank for New York City for the Snap Task Force declared the following statistics for the New York State and New York City:
Figure 1: New York State Food Stamp Participation and Benefit Value in July2014
The figures above represent a comparison between the number of participants in the months of June and July 2014. According to this report, the average amount of benefit decreased almost by half of a percentage point which when computed is USD252.83.
On the other hand, the statistics provided by the USDA Food and Nutrition Program on number of households participating and the benefits availed in the New York State, report the following data:
Figure 2: Number of households participating and the benefits
As stated in the data, in December 2013, 1,708,904 households participated in the program. In the following year, the numbers decreased to 1,682,099 which is 1.6 percent of the participating household in December 2013. Accordingly the cost of benefits dropped 0.4 percent, i.e. from 431,000,956 to 429,163,287 for the same time period (Brownell & Ludwig, 2011).
The next figure shows the SNAP Program Access Index and Participation Rates between 2009 and 2013. The data include Program Access Index as well as Participation Rate of participants in New York State and New York City.
Figure 3: SNAP Program Access Index and Participation Rates
n/a: not available
In the above figure, a comparison of the program access index and program participation rates between the New York City and New York State was provided by the USDA Food and Nutrition Program on SNAP (Leung & Villamor, 2011). The data on figure 3 shows that there is an increasing trend of participation in both locations.

Demographic profile of recipients

The demographic profile of SNAP recipients produced by the Department of Agriculture Office of Research and Analysis states that the average monthly SNAP benefit by all households amounts to $271. There are some exceptions of course. For example, for the households with children, the average monthly SNAP benefit is $410. Meanwhile, SNAP benefit availed by the working household is $322 per month, the households for senior citizens receives $134 per month and the households with nonelderly individuals receive a monthly benefit of $204 (Gundersen, et al 2011).

Question 3

How are the program’s services/ assistance provided? What is/are the source(s) of program funding? What is the amount of funding provided by the local, state and federal governments, respectively.
Anyone who meets the eligibility criterion can receive the SNAP benefits by using the (EBT) electronic benefit transfer card. The allocated benefits are automatically transferred to the participants’ accounts every month. The Participants can use their EBT card to buy most food items from the participating stores (Leftin & Wolkwitz, 2009). The food producing plants or seeds can be bought from the farmers’ markets.
In the New York State, SNAP is governed and funded by USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and is administered by local country Social Services Departments, OTDA (Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance) and the HR admin in New York City. FRAC (Food Research and Action Centre) explains that 100 percent of the funds required are fulfilled by the government with the help of private and public contribution, so the beneficiaries do not have to pay anything for the benefit (Kreider, et al 2012). The Federal taxpayers also contribute to the benefit cost. However, the Administration cost is shared by the federal and state governments with federal government bearing almost 50 percent of the total cost (Gundersen, et al 2011).
The government is in constant pursuit of improving the quality of life of the SNAP recipients. Nixon (2015) reported in The New York Times that the government has allocated a budget of $200 million to assist the SNAP recipients in finding job (Brownell & Ludwig, 2011).
The latest report on SNAP, published on March 6th 2015 states that the average participation of SNAP recipients in FY 2014 was 46,53,60,00. The total cost on the benefit provided amounted to $74,138.72 Million.

Question 4

What role do social workers and the social work profession play in the program?
Whenever an individual or a family intends to apply for SNAP benefit, they need to go through certain procedures. Here, the role of the social workers or the social work profession is to support and educate the eligible participants in getting the benefit (Gundersen, et al 2011). Many government and independent social work organizations have specialized departments who specifically take care of it, such as Lutheran Social Services, Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) and Broward County Department of Human Services, to name a few (Leung & Villamor, 2011).
The SNAP workers help the prospective participants in completing the documentation. They also help them in the interview process. The employable participants may also require participation in the employment and training program in order to maintain their eligibility. These organizations assist the benefiters in that process as well (Kreider, et al 2012). All this can be done online but mostly the people prefer to seek help from these organizations as it is more convenient.
These organizations also help in educating the limited income persons or households on ways to get quality nutrition in low food cost. Certain programs have been designed to provide SNAP education in different communities (Gundersen, et al 2011). One such example is ‘Eat Smart New York Program’ or ESNY program. This program intends to enable the participants with low or zero income to choose healthier food options. The ESNY teams meet at convenient locations like senior centers, schools and other community centers. The participants of the program indulge in preparing, cooking and tasting of a variety of food items and also receive a certificate of participation (Brownell & Ludwig, 2011).

Question 5

Is the program successful? What is the evidence for your reply?
Facts and figures (Rosenbaum.R, 2013), suggest that the program has been a success so far. In the past few years, SNAP showed impressive outcomes in fulfilling the needs of limited income Americans along with maintaining payment accuracy and high program integrity. SNAP has played a great role in poverty alleviation from the US, specifically in the recession of 2008 to 2009. The program responded efficiently when the SNAP benefits were alleviated by ARRA and ensured that there should be none or very little increase in the severity of poverty despite of deteriorating economic situation (Kreider, et al 2012).
According to a research paper on the effectiveness of the program on poverty stricken households, the SNAP program has “reduced the child poverty headcount by an average of 5.6 percent, while reducing the child-poverty-gap index by an average of 15.5 percent and the child-squared-poverty-gap index by an average of 21.3 percent during the first decade of this century” (Kreider, et al 2012). In the same paper, it was said that “There is a 15.3 percent reduction in poverty in non-metropolitan areas and a 22.5 percent reduction in metropolitan areas for children” (SNAP Effect on Poverty Levels Is Underestimated in CPS, Para 2). Hence it can be concluded that poverty for families would worsen if the SNAP benefit was taken away from these households. They further suggest that “the prevalence of poverty, would lead to an understatement of the role of SNAP benefits in the reduction of poverty”
In the light of above discussion it can be safely deduced that the program is highly successful, and that it is a big support for working households in effectively reducing the levels of food insecurity in highly vulnerable populations. It can also be said that the key element of the program’s success is that it has the capability of supporting the economy during hard times.

Question 6

What changes in policy and program would you like to see?
The program is working very efficiently. However, policies that can strengthen the program integrity should be made. The frauds and corruption should also be addressed so that the costs could be managed and the program could be expanded to deserving populations.
According to the food and agriculture act, the participating stores MUST supply ‘Healthy Basics’ which include Grains, Vegetables, Beans, fruits and basic multi-vitamins. However, the participating stores provide fatty meats, sugary sodas, and cheeses on the basis of healthy foods, which may raise the health risk of the consumers (Isaacs, 2013). Officials should pay special attention on addressing issues like these.
The policy makers should also restrain from cutting the budget for the program as the number of participants has increased immensely in the past few years. Research by Hu (2014) illustrated a survey conducted in 2013 wherein it was revealed that 254 soup kitchen and food pantries had shown 10 percent increase in comparison to previous years. Reducing the ration to manage the cost is not an option. Programs to generate funds can be implemented and campaigns for donations can also work in this regard (Kreider, et al 2012).
An increase in the trend of availing the benefit has been observed in the past few years. According to a survey, one in every seven Americans is a SNAP recipient. Due to this, the government spending has reached $70 billion per year. This is due to relaxed eligibility standards which need to be revised and tightened. Also, there are certain programs that are redundant and are of no use any more (Isaacs, 2013). Government should end all such programs because that act can save a big amount for the SNAP budget.
In short, steps should be taken to tighten the policy for the scrutiny and surveillance of the participants as well as the spending so that the program can continue improving the life quality of the less privileged Americans.

References

Leftin, J., & Wolkwitz, K. (2009). Trends in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation Rates: 2000 to 2007 (No. 6318). Mathematica Policy Research.
Kreider, B., Pepper, J. V., Gundersen, C., & Jolliffe, D. (2012). Identifying the effects of SNAP (Food Stamps) on child health outcomes when participation is endogenous and misreported. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 107(499), 958-975.
Ratcliffe, C., McKernan, S. M., & Zhang, S. (2011). How much does the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program reduce food insecurity?. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, aar026.
Leung, C. W., & Villamor, E. (2011). Is participation in food and income assistance programmes associated with obesity in California adults? Results from a state-wide survey. Public health nutrition, 14(04), 645-652.
Gundersen, C., Kreider, B., & Pepper, J. (2011). The economics of food insecurity in the United States. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, ppr022.
Brownell, K. D., & Ludwig, D. S. (2011). The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, soda, and USDA policy: who benefits?. Jama, 306(12), 1370-1371.
Coleman-Jensen, A., Nord, M., Andrews, M., & Carlson, S. (2011). Household food security in the United States in 2010. USDA-ERS Economic Research Report, (125).
Hanson, K., & United States. (2010). The Food Assistance National Input-Output Multiplier (FANIOM) model and stimulus effects of SNAP. Washington, District of Columbia: United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
In Neff, R. (2015). Introduction to the US food system: Public health, environment, and equity.
McGuire, M., & Beerman, K. A. (2013). Nutritional sciences: From fundamentals to food. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Foodbanknyc. ( 2014). The Research Packet for THE SNAP TASK FORCE Meeting of October, 2014. Retrieved March 27, 2015 from
Gundersen, G., Jolliffe, D. & Tiehen, L. (2012). Alleviating Poverty in the United States: The Critical Role of SNAP Benefits. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from
Isaacs, J., ( 2013). Success of SNAP program is not a reason to cut it.
Retrieved March 26, 2015from. http://blog.metrotrends.org/2013/06/snap-success/

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