Forum Monday Will Focus On The Need For Public Food Support For The Poor
March 23, 2007
By ANN MARIE SOMMA, Courant Staff Writer
Barbara Wallace is the perfect example of how the federal government has failed to feed the poor, say state advocates fighting hunger.
Wallace, a disabled HIV-positive mother of a teenage daughter, lives on a $620 Social Security check and qualifies for only $10 in food stamps a month.
Wallace said $10 is enough for her "to buy a pack of meat and some bread." The rest of her food comes from food pantries around Hartford.
"I go to food pantries to make ends meet. If it wasn't for them I would probably starve," said Wallace, 49, of Hartford.
Wallace will recount her situation at a Farm Bill forum organized by End Hunger Connecticut Inc. and the Connecticut Association for Human Services, from 10 a.m. to noon Monday at the offices of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund in Hamden.
The aim of the forum is to urge Congress to improve access to food stamp benefits when it writes a new farm bill this year. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, is expected to speak at the forum. Representatives from the state Department of Social Services, which administers the federally funded food stamp program, will also attend.
"The food stamp program is our nation's response to hunger. About 50 percent of people on food stamps are children," said Sally Mancini, assistant director of End Hunger Connecticut, the Hartford-based advocacy group.
Research conducted by the nonprofit Washington-based Center On Budget and Policy Priorities found that food stamp benefits average about $1 per person per meal.
The study also found benefit cuts enacted as part of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act have been eroding the purchasing power of most households on food stamps.
Some of the proposals in the Farm Bill include excluding retirement savings accounts and IRS-approved college savings plans when determining eligibility for food stamps. The bill also calls for $100 million to combat obesity rates and to promote healthy eating.
About 104,000 households in the state receive food stamps, according to DSS.
They are mainly elderly, disabled or children and their families. Participants can't have more than $3,000 in assets.
The maximum benefit for an individual is $155 per month, and $518 per month for a family of four. The minimum benefit is $10 for a household of one or two people.
DSS officials said the state has increased its outreach efforts for food stamps, but more needs to be done.
DSS has proposed legislation that would not include cars as an asset when determining eligibility for food stamps.
Most able-bodied people between the ages of 18 and 60 must register for work to qualify for food stamps or participate in an employment or training program. But when they purchase a reliable car to get to work, they lose their food stamp benefits, according to DSS.
A household that owns a car worth more than $9,500 isn't eligible for food stamps.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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