Web site to enroll eligible in food stamp program

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(Host) According to a new study, the number of people in Vermont who don’t have a sufficient amount of food is increasing. A campaign has been launched to increase participation rates in the federal food stamp program, because less than half of all Vermonters who are eligible for the program actually use it.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) A coalition of government, community and educational groups is concerned about the growing number of hungry people in Vermont. The group, which includes the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, the University of Vermont and state of Vermont, have created a Web site to encourage more people to take advantage of the benefits of the federal food stamp program.

It’s estimated that roughly 80,000 Vermonters qualify for the program but only 36,000 are enrolled in it. The Web site will provide individuals with information about the program and applications forms.

The director of the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, Robert Dostis, says the effort is critical because the number of people needing this assistance in Vermont is increasing:

(Dostis) “Poverty statistics, and jobs that are available being low wage jobs – there are a lot of folks who just don’t have a lot of money. So that segment seems to be increasing and as a result the census is saying there are more people who are food insecure, i.e, at risk of hunger or hungry.”

(Kinzel) Dostis is hoping that this new outreach campaign will help dispel some common myths about the food stamp program:

(Dostis) “For one thing people think that what you qualify for is not worth the challenge of actually applying for food stamps. And we say, no – actually your benefit levels can be quite decent and definitely helpful in helping to stretch the food budget. Seniors are concerned that if they accept food stamps they’re taking it away from someone else. That’s not the case. This is an entitlement program, so if seniors need it, they get it. And if anybody else needs it, they get it as well.”

(Kinzel) The new Web site address is vermontfoodhelp.com.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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