One in seven Americans are on food stamps, but the government is pushing to enroll more—in many instances working to overcome Americans’ “pride,” self-reliance or failure to see a need.
“Our common goal is to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” the United States Department of Agriculture explains on its “Outreach Toolkits” page. “Our purpose is to ensure that those going through difficult times can feed their families healthy, nutritious food. By working as a team, we can accomplish these goals.”
The USDA has adopted a range of strategies and programs designed to bring more people to SNAP, including taking on “pride.” A 2011 Hunger Champions Award document reveals that local assistance offices have been rewarded for “counteracting” pride and pushing more people to sign up for benefits.
The Ashe County Department of Social Services in Jefferson, N.C., for example, received a “Gold” award for confronting “mountain pride” and increasing food stamp participation by 10 percent.
“Hearing from the outreach worker that benefits could be used to purchase seeds and plants for their gardens turned out to be a very important strategy in counteracting what they described as ‘mountain pride’ and appealed to those who wished not to rely on others,” the document explains. “Eventually, many accepted assistance from the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program, and others, in some cases doubling a household’s net income. In 1 year, SNAP participation increased over 10 percent.”
The agency adds that there are many hurdles—including reticence to accept government aid—that SNAP advocates must overcome in order to make eligible people accept the government’s help.
According to the USDA, 65 percent of those eligible claim SNAP benefits, a number the agency has been working to increase.
“I think it’s a deep problem when SNAP officials think it is their duty to overcome ‘mountain pride’ or overcome the American sense of independence and individual responsibility,” [Alabama Sen. Jeff] Sessions told The Daily Caller in an interview. “They seem to think that is an anachronism and that modern Americans shouldn’t have pride and independence. I think it is highly troubling actually.”
SNAP spending has doubled since 2008 and quadrupled since 2001. Participation has increased from 1-in-50 on food stamps in the 1970s to 1-in-7 today.
[Editor’s Note: As of the 2000 census, Jefferson, NC, was 95.4 percent white and 1.4 percent black.]