Huge Growth Of Food Stamps In Northern Virginia Spurs Debate | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

Huge Growth Of Food Stamps In Northern Virginia Spurs Debate

Play associated audio
Jurisdictions in Northern Virginia have seen huge increases in the numbers of people collecting food stamps.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/janellie23/5373416639/
Jurisdictions in Northern Virginia have seen huge increases in the numbers of people collecting food stamps.

Social service providers are seeing record numbers of people using food stamps in Virginia. 

The numbers are staggering. In the last decade, the number of people who receive food stamps in Arlington County has doubled. In Fairfax County, the number has tripled. And in the city of Alexandria, it's quadrupled — and not just because of the recession.

"We've just gotten better at finding the people," says Mary Katherine D'Addario, public assistance benefit bureau chief in Arlington. "We've basically just been using every good idea anyone gave us to try and enroll more people." 

More people are also eligible. A few years ago, the federal government expanded eligibility. Now, applicants are not asked whether or not they own an automobile. They're not asked about educational loans. In Virginia, applicants must be at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

But not everyone things the expanded eligibility makes sense. 

"It gets to be a slippery slope," says David Armor, professor emeritus of public policy at George Mason University. "Once you go beyond the poverty line, it's not clear where you stop."

Armor recently wrote a paper that concluded most recipients of food stamps are actually above the federal poverty line. He argues the federal government could save $200 billion a year by tightening eligibility of anti-poverty programs to people who are actually in poverty.

"I don't think that we can afford to have a safety net that basically is aimed more at increasing the comfort level as opposed to providing true safety for those that are truly poor," Armor says. 

But that comfort level Armor speaks of is up for debate. The average individual benefit of clients served by the Arlington Food Assistance Center is only $4.03 a day, says Charles Meng, the nonprofit's executive director.

"Try to just feed yourself on $4.03 a day, much less try to feed your family, and you'll find that really doesn't go very far," Meng says. 

Meanwhile, local government keep expanding their outreach to the expanding universe of people who qualify, which means that the number of people who receive food stamps is likely to expand again in the next decade.

NPR

After Fan Pressure, Netflix Makes 'Daredevil' Accessible To The Blind

The series stars a blind superhero — but at first, it lacked audio descriptions for the visually impaired. Netflix has added that option, but the issue raises larger questions of online accessibility.
NPR

Late Chicago Chef Sought To Open 'A New Page In Gastronomy'

A star of molecular gastronomy, Homaro Cantu, 38, took his own life this week. Cantu owned a Michelin-starred restaurant, but he also wanted to cure world hunger and improve Americans' eating habits.
NPR

When Politicians Lose Their Accents

Some say Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Midwestern accent has become less pronounced. Georgetown professor Deborah Tannen says politicians' voices often change, depending on their audience.
NPR

After Fan Pressure, Netflix Makes 'Daredevil' Accessible To The Blind

The series stars a blind superhero — but at first, it lacked audio descriptions for the visually impaired. Netflix has added that option, but the issue raises larger questions of online accessibility.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.