Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Food Stamps are a "SNAP."
But Not in San Diego County
By Sylvia Hampton
1, 2009 (San Diego) — After the embarrassing front-page news
that San Diego County has only one in five people who need food supplements
enrolled to receive them (the worst enrollment record of any county in the
nation) the supervisors are finally paying attention. They voted to find ways
to streamline and improve access to the food supplement program and county
administrators will report back to the board within 90 days with changes that
can be made.
While the program is funded by the federal government, it is administered
by the state and county governments. Federal rules require you and the other
people in your household must meet certain conditions. Everyone who is applying
in a household must have or apply for a Social Security number and be either
a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or have status as a qualified alien.
State and local officials have flexibility to determine how applications are
processed, which often creates barriers for low-income families. One California
state policy requires participants to prove their eligibility every three months.
Nutrition advocates say the eligibility could be determined only twice a year
and save administrative costs as well as easing the burden on applicants with
transportation and other hardships. When people in San Diego County go
to apply for food supplements they are too often made to feel as though they
are almost criminals for being there. The effort to stop fraud is so unreasonable
and complicated that many needy people just give up and suffer in silence.
The deep recession has increased the numbers enrolled, but San Diego County
has a long way to go. Supervisors should move quickly to provide application
assistance in places that low-income people are likely to visit, including
community clinics and food pantries. San Diego Hunger Coalition and the San
Diego City Schools are looking at how the food stamp enrollment can be done
on school sites with high numbers of low income families. Trained volunteers
would screen parents, answer questions, and fill out paperwork. Those school
children who already qualify for free and reduced district meals are a good
place to start. And their parents are comfortable going to their neighborhood
San Diego County is the number two most desirable place to live in the nation.
Are we the county with great sunny days where behind the curtain is a Grinch
treating hungry kids and families like a mean Dickens character? Call
your supervisor to find out.
Sylvia Hampton is a community activist inducted into the San Diego County
Womenâ€™s Hall of fame for 2008 for her work in the fields of healthcare reform,
social justice and reproductive health. She is the past president
of the League of Women Voters of San Diego County and served on President Nixonâ€™s
Title X Family Planning Council. Her monthly Community Forum column is
published in the Rancho Bernardo Sun, Diamond Gateway Signature, and her â€œSoapboxâ€
in the East County Magazine.
Opinions are Sylviaâ€™s alone and not to be interpreted as the policies of the
League of Women Voters
Sylvia Hampton is a community activist inducted into the San Diego
County Women’s Hall of fame for 2008 for her work in the fields of healthcare
reform, social justice and reproductive health. She is the past
president of the League of Women Voters of San Diego County and served on President
Nixon’s Title X Family Planning Council. Her monthly Community
Forum column is published in the Rancho Bernardo Sun, Diamond Gateway Signature,
and her “Soapbox” in the East County Magazine.
Opinions are Sylvia’s alone and not to be interpreted as
the policies of the League of Women Voters.