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DHS news release

May 4, 2004

Fact sheet: Food-stamp participation in Oregon

Food stamps in Oregon

  • In March 2004, Oregon delivered a total of $35.5 million in food-stamp benefits to 424,356 persons living in 214,884 households. This represented a 6 percent increase in households from March 2003.

  • These are the highest numbers in Oregon history.

  • The more than 424,000 Oregonians receiving food stamps represents an increase of 78 percent from the 238,216 persons receiving good stamps in March 2000.

  • Since 1997, food-stamp benefits have been delivered electronically statewide using the Oregon Trail card. The food-stamp program itself began in Oregon in the 1970s.

  • The federal government provides 100 percent of benefits, and divides the cost of program administration equally with the states.

Participation rates

  • In 2001, the most recent year for which USDA data are available, Oregon had an 84 percent food-stamp participation rate. The rate is derived by dividing the number of participating people by the number who are eligible. (In December 2001, Oregon’s food-stamp program reached 350,371 persons.)

  • The 84 percent participation rate represents an increase from 77 percent in 2000 and 70 percent in 1999. From 1999 to 2001, the participation rate increased by 14 percentage points or 20 percent.

  • Oregon’s participation rate was among the highest in the nation.

  • USDA reported 2001 food-stamp participation rates of 54 percent in California, 48 percent in Idaho, 46 percent in Nevada, 64 percent in Washington. The national average was 60 percent.

Salem-Keizer outreach program

A two-year, $121,638 federal USDA grant launched a food-stamp outreach program at Salem’s Bush, Grant and Richmond elementary schools in September 2002.

It was one of 19 such awards made to local and state organizations across the U.S. Food-stamp information is sent home with students; made available to parents at family nights, school carnivals and parent meetings, for example; and circulated to people in surrounding low-income neighborhoods.

The Oregon Department of Human Services participates in the outreach effort. Laura Leete, Ph.D., director of public policy research at Willamette University, is evaluating the initiative’s success in increasing food-stamp participation at the three schools. Success will be measured based on food-stamp participation at these schools compared with that at other Salem low-income elementary schools.

Food-insecurity rates

  • The USDA published food-insecurity data in "Household Food Security in the United States 2002."

  • The report for 2000-02 shows Oregon had a rate of 13.7 percent who were food insecure with or without hunger and a rate of 5 percent who were food insecure with hunger. (Comparable U.S. averages were 10.8 and 3.3.)

  • By contrast, the survey for 1996-98 reported an Oregon rate of 14.2 percent who were food insecure with or without hunger and 6 percent who were food insecure with hunger.

Food Stamp Program

  • The Food Stamp Program is intended "to permit low-income households to obtain a more nutritious diet . . . by increasing their purchasing power (Food Stamp Act of 1977, as amended).

  • Allowable food purchases are items such as breads and cereals; fruits and vegetables; meats, fish and poultry; dairy products; and seeds and plants that produce edible food. Food-stamp benefits cannot legally be used to purchase beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco or non-food items such as pet foods; soaps, paper products and household supplies; vitamins and medicines.

Richmond Elementary School, Salem

Richmond serves nearly 400 students in kindergarten through Grade 5 from a low-income neighborhood east of downtown Salem. As a result of its high percentage of families living in poverty, all students at the school qualify for free breakfast and lunches. Nickname: Road Runners. Principal: Jim Hicks.