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SD County Approves New Food Stamp Plan

— The San Diego County Supervisors voted yesterday to enact a new plan meant to increase the number of people participating in the food stamp program. But critics say some of the steps required to get assistance actually deter people from signing up. KPBS reporter Katie Orr has details.

San Diego County has one of the lowest food stamp participation rates in the state. A 2008 report from

California Food Policy Advocates

says more than 200,000 people qualified for the assistance but just over half were participating. But county officials say they're doing better and the new plan will streamline the application process. The county will not eliminate fingerprinting as a requirement for enrollment. Supervisor Ron Roberts says it shouldn't be a concern.

"I go get a driver's license and I get fingerprinted. And it's never particularly bothered me. I don't get it. I don't feel insulted. I don't feel like a criminal," he says.

Roberts says the state requires fingerprinting as a way to prevent fraud. But opponents say the county can apply for a waiver if it wanted to. Joni Halpern is the Executive Director of the Supportive Parents Information Network. She says there's already a stigma associated with food stamps.

"The fingerprint adds one more dimension to this climate of criminality. And the bad part about fingerprinting is it has absolutely no effect on discovering fraud," she says.

Halpern's group also criticized the lack of customer service at county offices and the requirement of home searches in some cases. But other groups say the plan is a sign of progress that will result in more people getting help. The county wants to add 50,000 children and seniors to the food stamp program within three years.

Katie Orr, KPBS News

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