Started in 1939, the food stamp program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture is one of the entitlement programs designated to provide a safety net for Americans. The program enjoys some of the greatest bipartisan support and continues to be immensely successful. Earlier this week, the Department of Agriculture announced that the paper stamps which have been issued under the program for over six decades will be completely phased out later this month and replaced by a plastic card that operates in the same fashion as a bank debit card. As part of this transformation of the program, the Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has commented that the Agriculture Department will be asking for suggestions for a new name for the food stamp program, a move that may also reduce some of the stigma that has been associated with this extremely valuable initiative in the past. Currently only six counties in California and the U.S. territory of Guam still use the paper food stamps. The usually staid Department of Agriculture has also been in the news as of late due to a comment made by a senior official in that government office who noted in an interview that people who eat at food banks are "taking the easy way out." Several elected officials from the state of Ohio took great exception to his comment, remarking in a letter sent to his office that "You have displayed a disparaging attitude toward the victims of hunger and an astonishing lack of awareness of what is happening beyond the Beltway."The first link leads to a news piece from the Washington Post that discusses the modernization of the delivery system for food stamps in detail. The second link will take visitors to a news brief from MSNBC that provides a summary of the debate surrounding the recent comment made by a senior official at the Department of Agriculture regarding the use of food banks. The third link leads to a 3-minute audio feature from NPR on the continuing popularity of food stamp programs across the United States, reported by the venerable Daniel Schorr. The fourth link leads to the official United States Department of Agriculture website about the food stamp program, complete with eligibility details and research reports on the effectiveness of the program. The fifth link leads to an October 2002 report on the continued success of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (known colloquially as WIC), which "safeguards the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk." The last and final link leads to a site that provides some fine information on the various food stamp benefit program outreach activities that are intended to provide information on eligibility and benefits, with the primary goal of increasing the participation rate amongst those eligible parties.


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