In the United States, the hard truth is that many people can't even afford their basic necessities, including food. To keep people from starving, the government has a program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, allotted to the lowest income individuals and families in the country -- those living at or below the poverty line.
Many myths and uncertainties linger around these SNAP benefits, but aside from providing families with the means to access healthy food, here are 9 other surprising truths about food stamps in America.
They provide job training benefits.
Though SNAP is primarily thought of as being a nutritional support program, it actually provides more benefits than most people know about.
"One of the most overlooked and invaluable benefits of food stamps is that many states offer job training as a part of the program," said Michael Diamond, a financial literacy advisor. "If you're on food stamps because you lost a job, your state's SNAP program can offer free training and job placement services to get you back on your feet."
According to the USDA website, which administers the program, they will also help to reduce barriers to work through other services, such as transportation and child care.
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Museums have deals for SNAP recipients.
Another non-food based SNAP benefit, Diamond pointed out, is that "You can also use SNAP to get into museums in a lot of states, which is really cool and provides cultural access to people who might be unable to afford it."
Through Museums for All, those receiving SNAP benefits can gain free or reduced admission to more than 850 museums throughout the U.S.
They promote economic growth.
When people have enough money to spend, this leads to economic growth, and thus, food stamps stimulate the economy, according to André Disselkamp, finance expert and CEO of Finsurancy.
"The program's assistance for companies and economic growth is often underestimated. In fact, it is projected that every $1 spent on food stamps generates $1.70 in economic activity, far more than tax cuts or increased defense spending. In fact, because it accepts food stamp payments at its grocery shops, Walmart might be one of the greatest losers if the program is reduced."
They have a low rate of fraud.
Critics of SNAP benefits try to argue that they are ripe for fraud, but Disselkamp said that's just not true.
"Despite worries regarding food stamp misuse, it is claimed that the program has one of the lowest fraud rates for government programs. Only around 1% of benefits are trafficked, meaning that beneficiaries unlawfully sell them for cash. The government stated that it is continuing to combat existing fraud."
They do NOT promote unhealthy eating.
One argument against food stamps is that low-income families will spend more of their benefits on unhealthy food items, such as sodas. However, Disselkamp said, "With food stamps, soda consumption isn't any greater. However, the United States Department of Agriculture discovered that food-stamp recipients spent about the same amount on soda as non-food-stamp households."
Additionally, SNAP recipients are encouraged to buy healthier foods in bulk to maximize their benefits, along with buying products needed to grow and eat their own fruits and vegetables.
SNAP lowers healthcare costs.
Melissa Mitri, a registered dietitian for a nutrition reviews health website FinvsFin.com, said, "Study after study demonstrates that SNAP lowers healthcare costs. One main reason for this is that food insecurity is strongly linked to poor health. SNAP improves health outcomes which ultimately translates to lower healthcare costs."
She added that food-insecure households spend an estimated 45% more on medical care than those in food-secure households. "SNAP reduces healthcare spending among low-income adults. In addition, a microsimulation study estimated that incentivizing fruits and vegetables for SNAP participants would save $1.21 billion in healthcare costs over 5 years."
SNAP households might not be able to afford groceries otherwise.
SNAP benefits exist to help a very specific set of individuals and families in America -- those who live at or below the poverty line. That's an average monthly income of $813 or less, according to Bread.org.
Sadly, many families with children meet this criteria and would be faced with serious hunger issues if not for the program.
You can't just sit back and collect SNAP benefits.
While critics of SNAP like to suggest that people who get this benefit are somehow taking advantage of a system to receive "free" food, the truth is far from it.
According to JustHarvest.com, in order to receive these benefits, able-bodied adults age 18-49 have to work a minimum of 20 hours per week, or be engaged in some form of job training or community service.
There is also a comprehensive application process in order to receive benefits.
There's a workaround to buy Starbucks.
An interesting fact about SNAP is that you can purchase items like coffee beans and snacks at Starbucks located inside stores (think Target or Safeway), according to Tana Williams a personal finance blogger at DebtFreeForties.
She says, "Standalone or corporate Starbucks cannot accept SNAP, so head for Starbucks inside of grocery stores or hotels."
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