Saturday, February 18, 2006

Hungry Grandparents

Once each month, for several years now, Central Dallas Ministries has participated in a program offered to Dallas by the North Texas Food Bank. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), an effort of the United States Department of Agriculture, provides nutrient-rich foods to low-income persons on a monthly basis.

Organizations like CDM serve as distribution centers.

Each month our great staff and faithful community volunteers have been providing fruits and vegetables, juices, meats, fish, peanut butter, cereals and grain products, cheese and other dairy products to low-income persons through this wonderful program.

At CDM all of the beneficiaries of these supplemental foods are elderly persons.

We serve grandparents!

Nationwide 90% of those served in this program are senior citizens.

You should be here on this special day each month.

The atmosphere is part carnival, part social event, part church fellowship! The wonderful older folks who show up are so grateful for the food. They are also glad to see each other and our team.

CSFP is one of the smartest, cleanest, most economical programs available.

But, during FY2006, the program will be severely cut back--59,000 people will be dropped. In Dallas, 700 elderly residents will no longer be allowed to receive this benefit.

If Congress approves the President's budget for FY2007, the entire program will be eliminated to cut spending costs, again, to find funds to help underwrite more tax cuts for our wealthiest citizens.

Translation: over 459,000 seniors from across the nation will no longer receive the monthly food supplement, over 7,000 here in Dallas.

A recent survey of current participants revealed that more than 50% of seniors who live alone reported monthly income of less than $750. In senior households of two, more than half reported monthly income of less than $1,000 per month.

When asked about plans to cut this community-based, highly efficient program, the Dallas Congressional office of U. S. Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) responded by saying that these seniors could "sign up for Food Stamps."

Oh, sure. Transportation, paperwork, pride. . .only a partial list of the roadblocks for seniors seeking the meager Food Stamp benefit.

Clearly, Mr. Hensarling knows very little, if anything, about poverty as a crushing fact of life.

But then, that's why we have this problem, isn't it?


Jeremy Gregg said...

Mr. Hensarling forgets that all of those eligible for food stamps do not receive them. In fact, the participation rate has decreased almost every year for the past decade.

Even if 100% of the eligible persons participated, the average monthly benefit, per person, for people in Texas who get food stamps is $83.93 (America’s Second Harvest).

That is part of the reason that Central Dallas Ministries saw a 22% jump in demand at its food pantry this January compared to last year:

Food Stamp Worker said...

Food Stamp eligibility is not that difficult- I am a caseworker within the welfare system in Texas-and am directly responsible for the certification of eligible households.

However, with the concept of call centers in full swing in Texas coming- it IS going to be more difficult in the future.

Commonly, it is the elderly that get screwed in the Food Stamp program- many are on Social Security, their homes are paid for (which means there are no 'deductions' for rent/house payments)- and many seniors receive a paltry $10 in food benefit each month- which I, as a taxpayer, find atrocious.

BUT, until public perception of the Food Stamp Program changes, it won't change- it will only get worse. All anyone 'sees' when they thing "Food Stamps" is the myth of the welfare queen getting 300-400 a month in Food Stamps- they don't think about who is actually applying and getting them- formerly middle class households who have never ever needed assistance that have families to feed with no way to do it- with layoffs, etc.

As mentioned, food stamps are not hard to get. One applies, gets an appointment with a worker usually within 7 days (at least in Waco), gets seen and many times, if info is available at interview (proof of income and expenses)- a client can leave the office with a certification letter in hand and Lone Star card (activated) in their wallet.

The call center system that has started in Hays and Travis county has found that no longer will it be that simple.

All clients and potential clients need to start talking to their legislators.