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Report: Food Assistance Works For Michigan

September 19, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - The U.S. Department of Agriculture says in a new report that food insecurity - defined as a lack of resources to buy adequate food - did not rise from 2009 to 2010 in Michigan, despite big increases in poverty and unemployment. Roughly one Michigan resident in five, or nearly two million people total, currently receives food assistance from the state.

Melissa Smith, policy analyst at the Michigan League for Human Services, says reports of fraud and of people living large off the system are simply overblown.

"We do get those occasional stories, but 99.9 percent of the time this money is going to the people who need it and it's working."

Smith says she's alarmed by proposed changes to the Food Assistance program, as Governor Rick Snyder's administration has said it plans to add so-called asset limits to the qualifications beginning October 1. Those could include limits on savings, or on the value of a family's second car.

Smith says such assets tests end up costing the state more, as they do not help people lift themselves up and off assistance programs.

"The way to do that is to encourage people to create their own safety net, to encourage people to find ways that they can sustain themselves through difficult times."

Assets limits for food assistance programs have been eliminated in 30 states.

The USDA report on Food Security is at www.ers.usda.gov

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI