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FOOD STAMPS EASIER TO GET WORKING POOR CAN APPLY OUTSIDE MARKETS.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

PALMDALE - To get more people signed up for food stamps, Los Angeles County officials will set up information booths at local markets.

The outreach program is in response to a report that thousands of low-income Antelope Valley residents sometimes go hungry for lack of money to buy food.

``We will have eligibility staff in front of the markets. They will have fliers and information and encourage people to sit down and spend a few minutes answering questions that will begin the application process for food stamps,'' said Charlotte Lee, assistant program director at the Department of Public Social Services.

The purpose of the department's Food Stamp Outreach Project is to raise awareness of food stamps, determine eligibility and help those in need to eat right and stay healthy, officials said.

The goal is to increase participation by eligible families in the Antelope Valley by 35 percent, or 1,200 households, by the end of February 2005.

The information booths will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday at three Vallarta Markets: 1803 E. Palmdale Blvd, 440 E. Palmdale Blvd. and 1111 W. Ave. I, Lancaster.

The booths will be manned by county employees to answer questions and pre-screen applicants.

The department has been trying to help eligible families get food stamps and avoid hunger by dispatching staffers to places such as food pantries, senior centers and offices serving those in the federal Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, nutrition program, Lee said.

The department also will try to get food-stamp information to, and streamline the application process for enrollment of, families that receive Medi-Cal benefits but do not get stamps.

The efforts are aimed at helping the working poor who might have difficulty keeping an appointment at a Public Social Services office during regular business hours, officials said.

Fewer than 40 percent of those eligible for food stamps actually apply, department officials said.

Families with incomes up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level, or $20,376 for a family of three with a full-time worker earning the minimum wage, can get as much as $174 a month in food stamps.

A task force initiated by county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich has been looking for ways to increase participation in the food-stamp program among eligible Antelope Valley families and to combat any hunger.

Such efforts were among recommendations in the report by the Center for Health Policy Research at the University of California, Los Angeles, officials said.

In the UCLA report released June 2, researchers estimated that 5,000 low-income Antelope Valley adults sometimes go hungry and an additional 20,000 frequently cannot afford to put sufficient food on the table.

Many sometimes run out of food and lack money to buy more, have too little money to eat balanced meals, or cut or skip meals for lack of money, according to the report's authors who say these people chronically suffer from food insecurity.

More than 38 percent of the 60,000 low-income adults in the Antelope Valley were categorized as food-insecure, making it the area with the second-worst problem of its type in Los Angeles County.

The highest proportion of low-income adults categorized as food-insecure in the county was in the neighborhoods south of downtown Los Angeles, at 43.5 percent.

The highest proportion of low-income adults who reported going hungry at least once in 2001 for lack of money was in the South Bay - 11 percent of 391,000 low-income adults. After that came eastern Los Angeles County, communities in the southern part of the county and then the Antelope Valley at 8.3 percent of low-income adults.

The San Gabriel Valley, where 5.5 percent of the 430,000 low-income adults sometimes go hungry, had the least food insecurity proportionately of surveyed areas.

Analysts define low-income households in this region as those with less than twice the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that means less than $36,200 a year.

The analysts did not attempt to pinpoint reasons why communities had differing rates of food insecurity and hunger.

But the survey indicated food insecurity is higher among low-income adults who are African-Americans, Latinos and Asians, unemployed and actively looking for work, have children with them or don't speak English. It is lower among elderly people who might have low incomes but own their homes or stocks or other wealth.

The findings were based on a 2001 telephone survey of 55,000 Californians.

The survey was the first in California to attempt to quantify hunger and food insecurity. A new survey on hunger was done in 2003, and its results will be released later this year.

Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744

karen.maeshiro(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 22, 2004
Words:792
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