One in seven Americans are on food stamps, but the government is pushing to enroll more — in many instances working to overcome Americans’ “pride,” self-reliance or failure to see a need.
“Our common goal is to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” the United States Department of Agriculture explains on its “Outreach Toolkits” page. “Our purpose is to ensure that those going through difficult times can feed their families healthy, nutritious food. By working as a team, we can accomplish these goals.”
The USDA has adopted a range of strategies and programs designed to bring more people to SNAP, including taking on “pride.” A 2011 Hunger Champions Award document reveals that local assistance offices have been rewarded for “counteracting” pride and pushing more people to sign up for benefits.
The Ashe County Department of Social Services in Jefferson, N.C., for example, received a “Gold” award for confronting “mountain pride” and increasing food stamp participation by 10 percent.
“Hearing from the outreach worker that benefits could be used to purchase seeds and plants for their gardens turned out to be a very important strategy in counteracting what they described as ‘mountain pride’ and appealed to those who wished not to rely on others,” the document explains. “Eventually, many accepted assistance from the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program, and others, in some cases doubling a household’s net income. In 1 year, SNAP participation increased over 10 percent.”
Overcoming “beliefs” is a stated method from the USDA to bring more people to the program.
A “Common SNAP Myths” sheet from the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Community Outreach Partner Toolkit” details the importance of reaching people who do not think they qualify or have beliefs that conflict with accepting food stamps.