Washington, D.C. – As family budgets and local communities suffer from the economic downturn, there’s a way to address both problems at once. When families eligible for the federal SNAP or food stamp program sign up and use their benefits, it helps communities by promoting economic activity.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is offered by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. When people use the program, every $5.00 they spend generates $9.00 in total community spending, according to federal estimates. Many cities and counties in metropolitan Washington are missing out on the economic boost SNAP can provide because most of their eligible participants don’t take advantage of the benefit.
The COG Board is working with the Food and Nutrition Service to promote the program and encourage its use.
For example, only 34% of those eligible for the program in Fairfax County use it and only 45% of those eligible in Montgomery County receive SNAP benefits. If just 15% more people in each county participated, it would boost spending in those jurisdictions by $11 million and $12 million respectively. Participation by those eligible is even lower in several other Washington area jurisdictions – just 22% in Arlington County and 29% in Alexandria.
More than 70% of the eligible families in the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County participate, but if the number of eligible families who use the benefit increased by just 15 %, the city would realize an extra $17 million in economic activity and Prince George’s would experience an additional $12.6 million in economic activity. About 1.5 million families in the National Capital Region receive SNAP benefits.
Eligibility for benefits depends on income and the number of people in a household. For example, to qualify for SNAP, the average income of a household of four cannot exceed $28,668.
Of course, good nutrition is the most important SNAP benefit. According to the USDA, 10% of the country includes low-income areas that are considered “food deserts” that have limited access to affordable, nutritious food. As part of First Lady Michele Obama’s “Let’s Move! Campaign,” several national and local supermarket chains have agreed to open or expand stores in underserved communities.
For interviews on a project to address the problem of the region’s food deserts, contact COG’s Office of Public Affairs, (202) 962-3250.
To hear the recent interview with Audrey Rowe, Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show: http://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2011-08-08/snap-ping-food-benefits
Television Public Service Announcements - SNAP: www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/psas.htm
Radio Public Service Announcements – SNAP: www.fns.usda.gov/snap/outreach/radio/default.htm