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Social Workers: More Arizonans on Food Stamps is Good News

April 3, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – A new report says only four states are enrolling food stamp recipients at a faster rate than Arizona. The state's enrollment is up nearly 26 percent from a year earlier and although more Arizonans are seeking help, the enrollment statistic is considered a good one, according to social workers.

Carol Stambaugh, Arizona director for the National Association of Social Workers, says it means people in need are getting proper nutrition.

"Food stamps provides one of the most-elemental needs for people. It affects every area of our lives; education, job performance, and health. It even affects the relationships you may have with your family. Thank goodness we have that safety net to fall back on."

Stambaugh points to a common misconception that food stamps recipients are unwilling to work. However, these days, many are jobless for the first time in their lives, she says.

"Whenever they lose a job or get a pay cut or they lose their hours, those paychecks no longer allow them to meet their needs. This is something that has been able to help during this incredibly difficult economic time."

Food stamp benefits were boosted this week as a result of the federal stimulus package and now a family of four receives an extra $80 per month. The increase might give recipients access to better quality foods by freeing up money for transportation, according to Stambaugh.

"When transportation is an issue, when you don’t have the resources or the ability to catch public transportation, their meal may actually come from the closest place they can walk to, which may be a hot dog from the gas station."

Six months ago, another Food Research and Action Center report estimated Maricopa County alone was missing out on $105 million a year in potential food stamp aid, citing a lack of enrollment among eligible residents. Today, more than three-quarters of a million Arizonans are enrolled. Nationally, one-in-ten Americans currently receives food stamps.

The new report is at www.frac.org/html/news/fsp/2009.01_FSP.htm.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ