Judicial Watch • Food Stamps

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As if it weren’t bad enough that a record number of people—46 million and growing—get food stamps from the U.S. government, a federal audit reveals that many who don’t qualify receive them under a special “broad-based” eligibility program that disregards income and asset requirements.  

As a result American taxpayers are getting stuck with a multi-million-dollar tab to feed hundreds of thousands who can well afford to feed themselves. Here is the nutshell version of how it came to this; the Obama Administration has promoted food stamps like there’s no tomorrow, asserting that it’s the government’s duty to eradicate “food insecure households.”

In the last few years the administration has spent millions of dollars on ad campaigns to recruit more food-stamp recipients, even doling out hefty cash rewards to local governments that sign up the most people. One state even bragged about a $5 million performance bonus it got from the feds for its “swift processing of applications.”

As a result a record 46.3 million people—including some illegal immigrants—get taxpayer-funded food stamps at an annual cost of $76 billion, according to the agency that distributes the welfare benefit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This represents an increase of more than 16 million over the previous year, according to USDA figures. It’s only a matter of time before an out-of-control government program like this becomes infested with fraud and corruption.  

A few months ago the USDA’s Inspector General revealed that many food-stamp recipients use their welfare benefit to buy drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors. Some trade food stamps for reduced amounts of cash. The fraud has cost taxpayers nearly $200 million, according to the USDA watchdog, who provided various examples during testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Regardless, the administration keeps pouring money into the program. For instance in May it allocated $4 million to provide farmers’ markets not currently participating in the welfare plan with the wireless technology necessary to redeem the benefits. The idea is to provide healthy fruits and vegetables to low-income folks who would otherwise not be able to afford them. This is crucial because the feds claim the nation’s obesity epidemic has hit poor and ethnic minority communities hardest because they don’t have access to healthy foods.

This brings us back to the bulging food-stamp rolls. The previously mentioned federal audit, conducted by the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found that 473,000 households that received food stamps were not even eligible under federal standards. In one year alone this cost taxpayers about $460 million, according to the probe which suggests “improved oversight.”

Here is another enraging figure included in the GAO report; in the last decade the food stamp program has more than doubled and costs have quadrupled because the government has essentially encouraged states to disregard household income and asset limits required to qualify for the assistance. This is called “broad-based categorical eligibility.”

 

 

To further expand the government’s bulging food-stamp program, the Obama Administration is allocating $4 million to provide farmers’ markets not currently participating in the welfare plan with the wireless technology necessary to redeem the benefits.

The investment will create a “win-win” situation by helping American farmers and, more importantly, providing healthy fruits and vegetables to low-income folks who would otherwise not be able to afford it. After all, the nation’s obesity epidemic has hit poor and ethnic minority communities hardest because they don’t have access to healthy foods, according to the feds.

This is why Michelle Obama made revolutionizing the inner city diet the focus of her $4.5 billion law to conquer childhood obesity. The First Lady pushed the measure through Congress asserting that it’s the government’s duty to protect poor and ethnic minority communities that are overwhelmingly obese compared to their wealthier, white counterparts.

Under this theory, food-stamp recipients—who are supposed to be too poor to afford groceries—are eating too much junk because it’s cheaper and more readily available in their low-income neighborhoods. So in comes Uncle Sam with a multimillion-dollar infusion to con farmers into accepting the welfare vouchers. This will increase the consumption of healthy food and expand the customer base for local farmers, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. She’s the one who coined the arrangement “win-win.” 

The USDA is the agency responsible for running the nation’s swollen food-stamp program. Under this latest arrangement, farmers’ markets that don’t have access to phone lines or electricity will get it compliments of U.S. taxpayers. This will make it possible for them to redeem the welfare vouchers through the government’s Electronic Benefit Transfer system, which is used by grocery stores.  

A record number of Americans already receive food stamps and the figure will keep rising, according to congressional estimates. Just last month, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) revealed that 45 million people—one out of every seven U.S. residents—got food stamps in 2011, an astounding 70% increase from 2007. This represents a cost of $72 billion for U.S. taxpayers, which is a substantial increase from $30 billion four years earlier.

It’s all part of the Obama Administration’s effort to eradicate “food insecure households.” In the last few years the administration has spent millions of dollars to recruit even more food-stamp recipients and has doled out hefty cash rewards to states that sign up the most people. One state even bragged about a $5 million performance bonus it got from the feds for its “swift processing of applications.” 


In a laughable story that illustrates how dense government can be, a taxpayer-funded program that feeds low-income children free breakfast in public schools is causing concern about child obesity.

That’s because, as it turns out, some kids are “double-dipping” or eating twice in the morning, according to a national newspaper report. They have breakfast at home before going to school, then again once they are in class on taxpayer dime. This seems to indicate that the government could save some money by eliminating the program all together.

After all, the government offers free school breakfast in poor neighborhoods because kids supposedly come to class hungry and unable to concentrate on their studies. It’s a way to improve their academic performance, according to the experts running the nation’s ailing public education system. Under this argument, obesity would certainly not be an issue. Kids that go hungry and need the government to step in for a meal or two aren’t usually fat.

In this particular case, several large urban school districts offer free breakfast in the classroom—rather than the cafeteria—to ensure that food reaches the mouths of hungry children from low-income families. This eliminates the stigma of going to the cafeteria to get the free meal, which has been available for years at virtually all of the nation’s public schools.   

As a result of the new classroom convenience, the number of students who eat free breakfast has tripled in certain districts, according to the news report that also reveals other striking stats related to the program; absenteeism has dropped in Los Angeles and Chicago officials say kids from low-income families are eating healthier meals more often. Let’s get out the pompoms!

Not so fast. In a major U.S. city like New York, health officials are hesitant about expanding the region’s free classroom breakfast program because children might be “inadvertently taking in excess calories by eating in multiple locations.” This could contribute to the child obesity epidemic that’s become the focus of Michelle Obama’s costly national campaign. The First Lady even managed to get Congress to pass a multi-billion-dollar law to improve the inner-city diet, largely to tackle childhood obesity.

Nearly half of New York’s elementary and middle-school students are overweight or obese, according to a public health official quoted in the news story. Thus the concern in expanding a free meal program created for malnourished kids from poor families that can’t afford food. Parents from low-income New York schools who were interviewed for the piece expressed concern that their kids were getting breakfast in class because they eat at home every morning.

One mother said she actually reduced what her five-year-old eats at home because he has a second breakfast at school. This obviously creates doubts about the need for this taxpayer-funded meal program. Uncle Sam is already feeding a record 45 million people via food stamps and the number is quickly growing, according to the most recent government figures.  

 

The latest government figures reveal that an astonishing number of people are collecting public benefits such as food stamps and disability checks, revealing an alarming trend of dependence on government rather than self-sufficiency associated with the American dream.

A record 5.4 million workers have applied for federal disability checks since President Obama took office, according to a news report that cites recent government figures. This is straining already-stretched government finances while posing a long-term economic threat by creating an ever-growing pool of permanently dependent working-age Americans, the report says.

Since the recession supposedly ended in mid 2009, the number of people who have applied for disability benefits is double the job growth figure, according the report which includes an informative chart.  In just the first four months of this year, 539,000 joined the disability rolls and more than 725,000 applied for the federal benefit. That means nearly 11 million people are on disability, according to the Social Security Administration.

Also this week, government figures reveal that a record number are getting food stamps and the figure will keep rising. This is not surprising since the Obama Administration has promoted the program like there’s no tomorrow in an effort to eradicate “food insecure households.” In fact, the administration has spent millions of dollars to recruit even more food-stamp recipients and has doled out hefty cash rewards to states that sign up the most people. One state even bragged about a $5 million performance bonus it got from the feds for its “swift processing of applications.”

This week the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reveals that 45 million people—one out of every seven U.S. residents—got food stamps in 2011, a whopping 70% increase from 2007. This represents a cost of $72 billion for U.S. taxpayers, which is a substantial increase from $30 billion four years earlier. For at least the next two years the food-stamp rolls will get even bigger, according the CBO, which studies economic and budgetary issues for Congress. 

This undoubtedly leaves the out-of-control welfare program vulnerable to fraud and corruption. Just last month the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that allocates food stamps, published a scathing report detailing how many recipients use their benefits to buy drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors. Some trade food stamps for reduced amounts of cash, according to USDA watchdog.


While the Obama Administration promotes food stamps like there’s no tomorrow, the rolls are already higher than ever and so is the sort of fraud and corruption that often accompanies an out-of-control government program.

A record 46.3 million people—including some illegal immigrants—get taxpayer-funded food stamps at an annual cost of $76 billion, according to the agency that distributes the welfare benefit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This represents an increase of more than 16 million over the previous year, according to USDA figures. That’s because the administration is on a mission to eradicate “food insecure households.”

The effort includes a multi-million-dollar federal initiative to recruit even more food-stamp participants and hefty cash rewards for states that sign up the most people. A few months ago Oregon officials bragged that the USDA gave the state $5 million in “performance bonuses” for ensuring that residents eligible for food benefits receive them and for its “swift processing of applications.”

As if that weren’t enraging enough, this week the USDA Inspector General, the agency’s watchdog, revealed that many food-stamp recipients use their welfare benefit to buy drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors. Some trade food stamps for reduced amounts of cash, according to USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong.

Fong was testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. She told the panel that in the last five years 779 probes have resulted in 1,356 indictments, 944 convictions and 792 sanctions against individuals and businesses that have cheated the system. The fraud has cost taxpayers nearly $200 million, Fong said.

The inspector general provided lawmakers with a number of examples. Among them is an illegal immigrant store owner in Connecticut who got deported after being convicted of food-stamp trafficking. He reentered the U.S. to open several stores using fake names. In Florida a group of criminals defrauded the USDA welfare program to the tune of $6.2 million, Fong said.    

Additionally, thousands of people who are not eligible for food stamps are getting them by lying or using the social security number of dead individuals. In a check of just five states, the IG found that 8,594 recipients were receiving “improper payments.” In one unnamed state alone, Fong said the ineligible collectors are getting about $1.1 million each month.

The IG pointed out that, when this sort of fraud occurs, “families do not receive the intended nutritional assistance and retailers profit at the expense of the American public.” It also does nothing to help meet the president’s goal of eradicating “food insecure households.”

 

In its quest to promote taxpayer-funded entitlement programs, the Obama Administration has actually rewarded one state with a $5 million bonus for its efficiency in adding food-stamp recipients to already bulging rolls.It’s part of the administration’s campaign to eradicate “food insecure households” by improving access and increasing participation in the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Incidentally, the program was recently changed to SNAP to eliminate the stigma that comes with a name like food stamps. Just a few months ago the federal agency that administers the program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), launched a multi-million-dollar initiative to recruit more food-stamp participants even though the number of recipients has skyrocketed in the last few years.This week Oregon officials bragged that the USDA has given the state $5 million in “performance bonuses” for ensuring that people eligible for food benefits receive them and for its “swift processing of applications.” The money comes on the heels of a separate $1.5 million award from the feds for making “accurate payments of food stamp benefits to clients.” So welfare recipients are clients? .It marks the fifth consecutive year that Oregon has been “recognized” by the federal government for “exceptional administration” of the entitlement program, according to the announcement posted on the state’s Department of Human Services web site. The state official who runs SNAP assures that her staff will “continue working very hard to exceed expectations” so that Oregonians can “put healthy foods on their table quickly.”Could this be why the number of food-stamp beneficiaries in Oregon has increased dramatically in the last few years? Since 2008 the state has seen a 60% boost in the number of food-stamp recipients, which means that more than 780,000 people (one out of five Oregonians) get groceries compliments of Uncle Sam.As if this weren’t bad enough, the feds are also giving the state a two-year grant to test an “innovative approach” to the food-stamp “client eligibility review process.” This will make it even easier for people to get food stamps because it grants state officials a waiver that allows them to grant the benefit without interviewing the candidate.

A government entitlement program heavily promoted by the Obama Administration to eradicate “food insecure households” is doling out so much money that a growing number of private businesses are competing for a piece of the lucrative pie.At stake are nearly $65 billion distributed annually to food-stamp recipients by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The number has skyrocketed in the last few years (from $28.5 billion in 2005 to $64.7 billion in 2010) in part because the Obama Administration has spent millions of dollars to recruit more participants and reduce the “stigma” associated with food stamps, even as the number surged without taxpayer-funded publicity campaigns.Obama’s Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, claims that increasing the number of food-stamp recipients actually helps the economy, strengthens communities and creates jobs. The USDA has cited some unknown “research” that shows every $5 in new food-stamp benefits actually generates as much as $9 in economic activity. The source of the research has never been revealed by the agency.Now so many people get food stamps in the U.S. that a growing number of businesses—including gas stations, dollar discount stores and pharmacies—are accepting them, according to a national newspaper report. Even restaurants, which don’t participate in the program, are fighting for a piece of the action, according to federal lobbying records cited in the story.With few exceptions, federal rules prohibit food stamps from being cashed in for prepared foods, but the pot has gotten large enough to attract many eateries, especially fast-food chains. A handful of states let food stamps purchase prepared meals to accommodate the homeless, elderly and disabled and many want the practice to be widespread.For instance, California has a special “Restaurant Meals Program” that lets food stamps buy prepared foods. Ironically, virtually all of the participating eateries sell the sort of unhealthy cuisine that Michelle Obama has declared war against. The First Lady believes that fast-food chains are largely to blame for an obesity epidemic in America’s inner cities.In an interesting twist, Michelle Obama’s $4.5 billion measure to revolutionize the inner-city diet by countering fast-food eateries is being carried out by the USDA. Under the First Lady’s brilliant plan taxpayers are providing fresh produce and grilled lean meats as alternatives to greasy, fried foods that tend to be more popular in so-called “food deserts” infested with fast-food chains.

The number of food-stamp recipients has skyrocketed in the last few years yet the Obama Administration keeps wasting millions of taxpayer dollars to recruit more participants in the name of eradicating “food insecure households.”The latest publicly-financed campaign to boost the food-stamp rolls—officially known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP—was announced this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency that administers it. The USDA is dedicating $5 millionthis year to “improve access to and increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.”The money will go to state and local governments as well as “private non-profit organizations” so they can develop projects that “simplify SNAP application and eligibility systems.” Officially, the USDA is referring to the multi million-dollar plan as “process improvement efforts” that can simplify the application process and raise the amount of beneficiaries from the current 44 million who already get the handouts.Those who may oppose this sort of government expenditure amid a record $14 trillion deficit should first consider the words of Obama’s Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack. He claims that increasing the number of food-stamp recipients actually helps the economy, strengthens communities and creates jobs. The USDA even cites some unknown “research” that shows every $5 in new food-stamp benefits actually generates as much as $9 in economic activity. The source of the research was not cited in the USDA press release announcing the $5 million investment to expand the program.Last fall the government financed a separate campaign to reduce the “stigma” associated with food stamps by “rebranding” the name of the decades-old welfare benefit to encourage more people to apply. Colorful brochures sporting a new logo (Better Food For Better Living) were printed and distributed amid government figures that the number of food-stamp recipients had increased by 50% in three years.

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