Many people have distorted views and stereotypes on who gets food stamps. Here are a few myths from the Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger:
MYTH 1: Most food stamp recipients wouldn’t need this benefit if they would just get a job.
In reality, over 50 percent of food stamp participants are children and 8 percent are elderly citizens. In fiscal year 2005, of all food stamp households, 84% contained either an elderly or disabled person or a child, and these households received 89% of all food stamp benefits. Commonly referred to as the “working poor,” many food stamp users who are employed full-time still earn poverty level wages, making it difficult to afford food.
MYTH 2: The Food Stamp Program uses tax dollars that never benefit my community.
Studies show that every dollar in food stamp benefits generates two dollars in household spending. Food stamp benefits not only support grocery purchases, but also free up cash for other necessities, such as medical care, children’s clothing, house repairs, and child care. As more money is spent, more jobs are created, ultimately promoting a more robust local economy.
MYTH 3: Only people who are on welfare get food stamps.
The Food Stamp Program is a nutrition program funded and administered by the United States Department of Agriculture. According to the USDA, 15 years ago 42 percent of all food stamp households received welfare benefits and only 19% had earnings. As of 2005 less than 15 percent were receiving welfare and over 29 percent were gainfully employed. Participants need not be receiving welfare to receive food stamps.
MYTH 4: Food stamp recipients are all the same.
Currently, food stamp beneficiaries are a diverse group. USDA statistics show that:
59 percent of food stamp recipients are female,
43 percent are Caucasian,
33 percent are African American,
19 percent are Hispanic,
2 percent are Asian, and
2 percent are Native American.
MYTH 5: Hunger is not a problem in my neighborhood.
Consider the following startling statistics:
There are nearly 122,000 households in Southeastern Pennsylvania that must reduce the size of meals or skip meals entirely because they cannot afford food purchases. (Philadelphia Health Management Corporation, Community Health Data Base, “2004 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey.”)
Those 122,000 households include nearly 61,000 children.
Many of these households are eligible for food stamps, but not receiving them. In fact, an estimated 65,000 Philadelphians are potentially eligible for food stamps. With the average food stamp benefit in Philadelphia at $87 per person, many people are missing out on benefits that can help to nourish themselves and their families.