Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs
Although many people still refer to food stamps the name of the program has been changed to SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Oklahoma entered the Food Stamps Program in 1972 following many years of distributing food commodities to needy families. The switch was made for many reasons, but the primary purpose behind the move from commodities to food stamps was the desire to better serve the needs of the families who received them.
Food commodities were limited in variety, often wasted, and required lots of storage space. Food stamps provided a solution to all three problems.
Food stamps are available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The United States Department of Agriculture administers the food stamp program, and it determines the amount of food stamps an individual or family may receive through the Thrifty Food Plan which estimates how much it costs to buy food and prepare nutritious, low-cost meals for a household. This estimate is changed every year to keep up with changing food prices.
The method of delivering food stamps to needy families has changed through the years. Originally clients were issued an Authorization to Purchase (ATP) which allowed to purchase the food stamps they were eligible to receive. A family might spend $50 in cash to receive $100 in food stamps, for instance. The extra $50 in food stamps were called the “bonus coupons.”
Eventually, the ATP process was replaced by an Authorization to Participate card, which allowed them to obtain the full amount of their bonus coupons at no cost. In time, the coupons were mailed directly to a household’s home, although this sometimes created opportunities for fraud and theft.
Today, food stamps are received through an electronic benefit process. Those who are eligible for food stamps receive an ACCESS OKLAHOMA card which can be used to purchase food items at the store. It works much the same as other debit cards, as there is a pin number and a machine the card must be “swiped” through.
Stores that accept the EBT card display a sign such as the one shown to the left. Food stamp recipients must watch a video detailing how the EBT process works and select pin numbers to protect their cards from misuse. There are definite penalties that may be applied if the EBT card is used by unauthorized persons or to purchase unapproved items.
Food stamps are often considered a safety net progrem because they are of particular benefits to “the working poor.” Many individuals and families are working, but they’re not making enough to meet all of their needs. food stamps provide a way to supplement their earnings so they can purchase food and thereby improve their nutrition. You should also recognize that a food stamp household may also be eligible for other benefits and services. The household may only ask for food stamps, but it’s up to you to see those additional needs.
The food stamp program was originally created as an effort to eliminate hunger and promote nutrition and health. There are other concerns you should keep in mind, however.
Helping a family put food on the table is an extremely powerful social service. Doing so quickly and correctly ensures that family’s needs are being met, and by doing so, you are fulfilling the requirements for timely and accurate issuance. When a family comes to you for assistance, meeting there needs should be one of your primary concerns. It not the client’s responsibility to request services and benefits. It is your responsibility to assess the families situation and make appropriate offers and referrals.