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Getting By: From Wall Street To Main Street

Above: Click play to view the web exclusive report on food stamps

For the past couple of weeks, we've been working on a project called Getting By . It's a look at the local economy and how people are coping, given the market crash, the foreclosure mess, and the rising cost of rent, gas and food.

We've heard from you about how this is affecting your everyday lives.  More of you are simply not getting by; middle-class families are now showing up at food bank lines.

We also uncovered a story about food stamps : a federal program that provides money for food to working families and those on assistance.

San Diego County has the lowest food stamp participation rate in the country according to a national survey of 24 large urban areas. Only one in three who are eligible actually apply. And that means the county is losing more than $140 million in free food -- food that could go to the poorest of the poor.

The county is responsible for getting the word out about food stamps. They also administer the program. We asked them why so few people participated in a program that would give them more money for food.  Some people are intimidated by the process, others just don't know it's available.

The most surprising response we got from the county was that they didn't have enough money to administer the program. This is surprising because the federal and state governments paid the county $28 million last year, according to a county spokesperson. That just to administer the food stamp program -- to do the paperwork and outreach -- and get the word out to the community.

In the past seven years, a California Department of Social Services spokesperson says, the state has paid the county more than $75 million to administer the program. A county spokesperson says while that may be the case, the state has not increased the money it gives per caseload in seven years, and the cost of doing business has gone up.

Eddie Lamour from St Paul, MN
October 03, 2008 at 04:38 PM
It appears that Donna Hand is very uniformed about her job, or is hiding something.

Chris McConnell
October 14, 2008 at 12:33 AM
Not a great interview for Donna Hand - but I suspect this was probably a result of her not running into real journalists in San Diego very often - so thanks and praises to Joanne Faryon... ...and to be a contrarion - Im not sure the fact that foodstamp money went unclaimed means that the need went unmet or as Chris Carter of the SD Food Bank said, "we're losing quite a lot of money in addition to families not recieiving foodstamps and going hungry." The going hungry part might be sadly true, but not proven in this report. I don't mean to claim there are not hungry families in SD - but there is an assumption in this report. I would like to see numbers that prove the metrics used to measure need are an accurate measure of need in SD. Perhaps there is another factor that is affecting need in SD - maybe our charities (St. Joe's for ex.) and religious organizations are taking up a disproportionate dollar amount of the burden in SD compared to other regions?? Does the availability of federal monies mean we should grab for it no matter what? Anyway - good reporting on supposedly mundane topics is what makes people like Donna Hand be sure to be sharper next time... Chris

Bill from San Diego
October 23, 2008 at 05:18 PM
I go hungry every month because I just cannot afford to live on 1,000 dollars a month. Food stamps are nearly impossible to get and it's not enough money to suffer the embarrassment of applying for them. Besides, most are denied. It's a classic government program: Overmanaged and woefully underperforming. The Food Bank close to me is only open the last Thursday of each month for two hours and what they have is disgusting. Chili makes me sick, powdered milk tastes nothing like milk, and one loaf of bread does not last an entire month. Not worth the effort. It is much easier to steal food of good quality than it is to ask the the State. For a formal middle-class executive, I want nutritious food. It is not available to me.