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Oregon Among Top States in Food Stamp AccessSalem-News.com
The USDA estimates Oregon has reached nearly 68 percent of eligible individuals, an extremely high rate nationally.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Oregon DHS officials say the state continues to be a national leader in relieving hunger by helping thousands of families gain food security through the Food Stamp Program. Now that leadership has now drawn national recognition.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded Oregon a $1.7 million performance bonus for being one of the four states that provide food stamps to the highest percentage of people who are eligible for food assistance. The USDA estimates Oregon has reached nearly 68 percent of eligible individuals, an extremely high rate nationally.
The Oregon Department of Human Services, which will receive the bonus money, is in the process of developing plans for how best to spend those resources to further reduce hunger in Oregon.
"The Food Stamp Program remains one of our best defenses against hunger, and for thousands of Oregon families it helps ensure that one of their most basic needs will be met," said Gov. Ted Kulongoski. "Even though the program is intended to supplement a family's food dollars, we know there are some families who rely on this benefit as their primary food purchasing resource."
The federal program, which is administered though the Oregon Department of Human Services, helps reduce hunger by providing eligible low-income Oregonians with food, a healthy diet and nutrition education. In August 2007, 442,393 Oregonians representing 228,879 households received food stamp benefits.
"The Food Stamp Program has had a profound impact on the lives of thousands of individuals who otherwise would have gone hungry," said Bruce Goldberg, M.D., DHS director. "Oregon's hunger rate – the number of people unable to provide a basic amount of food for their families – was at an all-time high a decade ago. We've made significant progress since that time in reducing food insecurity among Oregonians."
Goldberg credits this turnaround to increased outreach efforts by DHS and its many community partners to enroll eligible individuals in the program. Three key groups he credited for their efforts are the Hunger Relief Task Force, the Interagency Coordinating Council on Hunger, and the Oregon Faith Roundtable Against Hunger.
"When other states were experiencing increases in their rate of hunger, Oregon's rate fell," said Goldberg, noting that this occurred despite an economic recession.
But there is more work to be done, he added.
"There are too many children and families who are going without meals or eating less food than they should," he said. "Those are the families we need to reach. Providing life's basic necessities – food, shelter, employment, health care – helps prevent at-risk families from suffering further problems."
DHS will receive additional help reaching those families thanks to a recent three-year grant awarded by the federal Food and Nutrition Services Program. The $430,843 grant will be invested to further support nutrition outreach and education by enabling DHS to:
* Purchase software to create an online application process;
* Make the application available at a variety of non-traditional sites;
* Work with local partners to help applicants complete the online process and submit verification; and
* Increase Food Stamp Program participation among seniors.
An electronic signature process will be developed for the online application to authenticate the identity of the applicant and to ensure the information given on the application has been sent unchanged. This will enable clients to fill out and submit an application without making a trip into a DHS office. DHS will test the outreach potential of this new technology with seniors in Marion, Polk and Tillamook counties, and all residents of Multnomah County.
"We hope this improved application process will make it easier for individuals to get the help they need," said Belit Stockfleth, who manages the state's Food Stamp Program. "We plan on rolling out this technology statewide once we've learned what works and what doesn't during the pilot project."
Source: Press release
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